Health Watch: Cataracts in Younger People - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Health Watch: Cataracts in Younger People

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A new study shows a dramatic increase in the number of Americans diagnosed with cataracts. Researchers say it's mainly a result of an aging population but cataracts are also impacting younger patients.

Williams Newland is one of those people. His career depends on his eyesight. He's been an airline pilot for 35 years, but at age 51, his vision became blurry.

He's part of a growing number of patients diagnosed with cataracts, a common condition in seniors. Clumps of protein cloud the lens of the eye. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness.

Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the United States. More than 24 million Americans – 40 and older – have the condition. That's a 19% spike in just the past decade.

The condition is almost always treatable with outpatient surgery that usually takes about 20 minutes. A doctor removes the eye's cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial one.

"We can make the patient see often better than they've ever seen by correcting near-sightedness or far-sightedness or astigmatism or in some cases eliminate reading glasses," Dr. James Salz with the American Academy of Ophthalmology explains.

Doctors recommend all adults get a baseline eye exam by age 40. Annual eye exams are a must after age 65. And know your risk factors: diabetes, smoking, too much sun exposure and family history of cataracts can increase your chances of getting the disease.

Written by Wendy Damonte

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