There is no doubt that I have seen an increase in the severity of cataracts in younger patients for years. This is purely anecdotal on my part, but I am definitely operating more and more on younger patients. When I discuss these cataracts wIth these younger patients, they are very surprised, "cataract is a disorder of the elderly" is a frequent response I will hear from the 40 something year old suffering from the symptoms of a cataract. My response has been that I believe the rise in incidence in cataracts of the young is probably caused by ozone depletion and UV exposure. Visual complaints that may signify cataracts include:
- Blurred vision, double vision, ghost images, the sense of a "film" over the eyes
- Lights seem too dim for reading or close-up work, or feeling "dazzled" by strong light
- Changing eyeglass prescriptions often, and this change does not seem to help vision
- Glare while driving at night
If the cataracts are small, I recommend full time UV protection for the eyes, if the cataracts are large, cataract surgery is discussed.
I have been proved correct: A report was released this week by the EPA, Health and Environmental Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion. For the first time, EPA has included data on cataract and UV exposure. All people, regardless of
gender and skin type, are at risk for cataracts. It is recommended that both adults and children use eyewear that absorbs UV rays
and to wear a wide-brimmed hat to limit outside UV exposure.
The EPA report estimates that the strengthening of the original
Montreal Protocol through the Montreal Amendments of 1997 will avoid
more than 22 million additional cataract cases for Americans born
between 1985 and 2100. The environmental treaty, signed by 196 countries, was designed to reduce and eventually eliminate ozone depleting substances.
Obviously, going green is not just a good idea to protect the environment; it can
also help to save sight thru cataract prevention!