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SMMC urges cataract awareness

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St. Michael’s Medical Center, Newark, advises community members to take control of their eye health and know the signs and symptoms of cataracts during Cataract Awareness Month in August.

Cataracts affect more than half of Americans age 65 and older. The leading cause of blindness in the world, cataracts cloud the lens of the eye, resulting in vision impairment.

“Cataracts are most often caused by our normal aging process,” said Dr. Matthew Marano, chief of ophthalmology, SMMC. “Other contributing factors may include too much exposure to sunlight, trauma, certain medications, or genetics.”

A cataract may not impair vision noticeably at first, but as it continues to grow, it can impact vision in any of the following ways:

• Fading or dimness of colors

• Cloudy or blurry vision

• Difficulty reading small  print

• Difficulty seeing while driving— especially at night

• Seeing halos or auras around  lights

• Frequent changes in eyeglass  prescriptions.

“Cataracts tend to develop slowly, but will start to interfere with one’s vision over time,” Marano said. “Patients often describe their vision as looking through a fogged-up window. This impaired sight can become frustrating, as it begins to affect people’s daily activities, in which case surgery is needed.”

Since the only effective treatment for cataracts is surgery, those with cataracts usually wait to seek treatment when their daily activities become limited, affecting their quality of life. “Each  case is different,” said Marano. “It is important that each individual speaks with his or her eye doctor to weigh the benefits and risks of cataract surgery and determine if and when to intervene.”

At SMMC, Board-certified eye-care physicians and surgeons treat patients with cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and other conditions. For more information about ophthalmology services at SMMC or to schedule an appointment, call 973-877-5000.

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