More than 700,00 Australians are affected by cataracts, new data reveals

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Eye exam
A woman gets her eyes tested during Care Harbor LA free medical clinic in Los Angeles, California September 11, 2014. The four-day clinic provides free medical, dental and vision care, prevention resources and follow-up care to thousands of uninsured, under-insured and at-risk individuals and families. Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

New data shows that an increasing number of Australians have been living with cataracts over the past six years. Over 700,00 Aussies were affected by cataracts in 2016 to 2017. Such was found to be more common among women than men.

The figure, according to the Medibank Better Health Index, means 139,000 more cases compared to those recorded in 2010-11. In the past year, 4.4 percent of women were affected, comparatively a greater figure than 3.5 percent of males.

Cataract is a vision-blurring cloudy spot on the lens of the eye. It is known to be a leading cause of blindness and can be treated with an operation.

There is reportedly a marked rise in the number of women aged 80 and above impacted by cataracts over the past six years. The number rose to 18.5 percent in 2016-17 from 13.4 percent in 2010-11. According to Medibank Clinical Director Dr Sue Abhary, it is well-known that the risk of developing cataracts rises as people get older. The latest data also suggests that there has been a slight rise in the number of Australians impacted, reports.

According to Consumer Reports, signs of worsening cataracts can be subtle. Abhary said that glasses can help during the early stages, but surgery may be needed to improve vision. Anyone who experiences a gradual deterioration in vision is encouraged to make an appointment with an eye specialist or optometrist for a comprehensive eye check.

In the United States, approximately 24.5 million people are living with cataracts. Uday Devgan, a cataract surgeon, said that the lens becomes opaque over time. Surgery to have the cloudy lens replaced with an artificial one can improve vision. It is generally a fairly simple outpatient procedure and is one of the most common surgeries in the US.

Cataract surgery is typically done at outpatient surgical centres, in a hospital or private medical office. Neal Shorstein, an ophthalmologist, said there is no research to support better outcome in one venue over another.

Based on estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in five cases of cataracts may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation. Limiting sun exposure is a general tip to avoid cataracts. A check-up with an eye specialist is advised, particularly to those who have a family history of eye conditions like glaucoma.

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