The American Academy of Ophthalmology with the support of the advocacy group Prevent Blindness America, has nominated June as Cataract Awareness Month. The awareness month provides an opportunity each year for an increased focus on how cataracts affect millions and how people can help reduce their risk of cataracts.
Raising awareness about cataracts is important since it is the leading cause of blindness both in the United States and around the world. In the United States alone, there are more than 24 million people aged 40 and over who are affected by cataracts, making ongoing awareness and education vital.
WHAT ARE CATARACTS?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye. The lens is normally clear to allow light to pass through. As we age, though, some of the proteins in the lens can begin to clump together and cloud a small part of the lens. This cloudy spot is a cataract.
Because cataracts often develop very slowly over many years, it can sometimes be difficult for people to immediately recognize that their eyesight is affected. The most common symptom to look out for includes seeing a halo effect around bright lights as when driving and seeing oncoming headlights. People may also experience double vision or notice that colors seem cloudy or faded.
Over time, a cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens to the point that it starts to distort a large amount of the light passing through it. If not treated, cataracts can eventually cause a complete loss of vision in the affected eye.
HOW CAN CATARACTS BE PREVENTED?
Cataracts most commonly affect people over the age of 40 but can develop in people of any age. Some people can even be affected by cataracts from birth. Factors known to affect the likelihood that someone develops cataracts include a family history of the eye condition, diabetes, exposure to extended periods of bright sunlight, eye injury, and alcohol and nicotine consumption.
The best ways to reduce your risk are to wear UV blocking sunglasses and wide brimmed hats when outside in bright sunlight, and to avoid smoking cigarettes and excessive alcohol consumption. Several studies have also shown that eating more foods rich in Vitamin C may delay the speed at which cataracts form.
Luckily for people in developed countries, severe cataracts can be easily corrected with surgery. In the U.S. more than 3 million cataract surgeries are carried out each year, with an overall success rate of more than 98%.
HOW ACCESSIBILITY HELPS PEOPLE WITH CATARACTS
For people affected by cataracts or recovering from cataract surgery, web accessibility can be vital, allowing them to continue to access information online and enjoy a high quality of life despite vision impairment. This includes the ability to access content via assistive devices such as screen readers.
Websites operated by state and local governments as well as private businesses providing “places of public accommodations” such as restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, museums, and doctor’s offices are all required to ensure their services are accessible. These rules are governed by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is enforced by the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ recommends that accessibility compliance be in line with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0.
For further information on how you can ensure that your services are fully accessible by people affected by cataracts and other visual impairment, please see our free WCAG report or contact us for more information on website accessibility.