Cataract is one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. If not treated, cataracts increasingly “cloud” your vision (see photo at right), and can lead to blindness. In addition, the longer cataracts are left untreated, the more difficult it can be to successfully remove the cataract and restore vision. During Cataract Awareness Month in June, the American Academy of Ophthalmology reminds the public that early detection and treatment of cataracts is critical to preserving sight.

Another Reason to Get Cataract Surgery: It can Make you 48 Percent Safer on the Road

The ability of cataract surgery to restore sight is well known. People say they’re stunned by the vibrancy of color after surgery and the improvement in night vision. Some can even reduce their reliance on glasses. But can you quantify that improved quality of vision? To find out, researchers in Australia used a driving simulator to test patients’ vision before and after cataract surgery. They found that near misses and crashes decreased by 48 percent after surgery.

A study conducted in Australia found a 48 percent reduction in accidents and near-misses in those who underwent cataract surgery.

Cataracts are a normal consequence of aging. They happen gradually over years, as the clear lens inside the eye becomes cloudy. The effects of a developing cataract are sometimes hard to distinguish from other age-related vision changes. You may become more nearsighted; colors appear duller and glare from lights make it harder to see at night. By age 80, about half of us will have developed cataracts.

Cataract surgery replaces the cloudy lens with an artificial lens. The surgery is low-risk, fast and effective. But not everyone has surgery right away. The decision is usually based on how much the cataract is interfering with daily life activities. Ophthalmologists typically operate on one eye at a time, starting with the eye with the denser cataract. If surgery is successful and vision improves substantially, sometimes surgery in the second eye is forgone or delayed. However, most people get significant benefit from having surgery on the second eye. Depth perception is improved, vision is crisper, making reading and driving easier.

Learn more from the American Academy of Ophthalmology