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Prevent Blindness America
NEW MEDICARE GUIDELINES OFFER ADDITIONAL
CATARACT TREATMENT OPTIONS
Longevity and Lifestyle Keeps Cataracts at the Top of Common Eye
Problems List Among Older Americans
CHICAGO (July 11, 2005) – More than 20.5 million Americans suffer from cataracts.
And, the number is expected to balloon to 30.1 million by 2020. Today, those who suffer
from cataracts, the leading cause of low vision in Americans, and the inevitable
symptoms of presbyopia, have new products available to them.
Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s lens which blocks light needed for sight. New
options for intraocular lenses include Crystalens by Eyeonics Inc., ReSTOR from Alcon,
and ReZoom from Advanced Medical Optics, and have all been approved by the FDA.
The devices work in the same way as the original lens and help to restore the ability of
cataract patients to see both near and far.
Guideline changes, announced in early May, now allow Medicare recipients the choice
of receiving basic lens replacement, paid in full by Medicare up to $2,000, or applying
the credit to new replacement lenses that can correct farsightedness in addition to
cataract removal. Patients would then be responsible for paying the difference.
Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in people age 65
and older. The surgery has a 95 percent success rate with generally a minimal
recovery time. Some patients are back to normal in just a few days.
“We hope that this new Medicare policy change will help to ease the burden of costs to
many of our seniors so they can afford and have access to the latest in cataract surgery
technology,” said Daniel D. Garrett, senior vice president of PBA. “We are encouraged
that the government is recognizing the need for these important changes to address the
increasing demand for vision care.”
Cataracts generally are painless. However, visit your eye doctor if you experience the
• Blurred vision, double vision, ghost images, the sense of a "film" over
• Lights seem too dim for reading or close-up work, or strong lights seem to
• Changing eyeglass prescriptions often, without experiencing improvement
• A milky or yellowish spot appears in the pupil (the center of the eye is
New Options for Cataract Sufferers
Although there is no way to prevent the development of cataracts, the following are
common risk factors:
Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun: PBA recommends
choosing sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B rays. A wide-
brimmed hat will block about 50 percent of the UV radiation that might enter the eye
around glasses. It is very important to protect children’s eyes, as the damaging effects
of UV rays are cumulative–extended exposure over many years will increase your risk
of cataracts later in life.
Smoking: Cigarette smoke is known to contain substances that interfere with the eye’s
antioxidant defense mechanisms. Research has shown that the more you smoke, the
greater your risk of cataracts. Fortunately, studies also show that you can reduce your
risk of cataracts by kicking the habit.
Diabetes: People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at a much younger
age. Given the rising prevalence of diabetes worldwide, people should do everything
they can to avoid developing type 2 diabetes. Obesity is not only a risk factor in
developing diabetes, but may increase the risk of cataracts by two-thirds.
Long-time steroid use: Steroids given orally, intravenously or topically (eye drops)
have been shown to increase the risk of cataracts. Inhaled steroids commonly used to
treat asthma and some allergies, taken for more than three years, also increase the risk
Eye Injuries: Physical injuries, such as a blow to the eye, a cut, burn, puncture, or
exposure to intense heat or cold, can lead to cataracts formation. The best way to
avoid eye injuries is to wear proper eye protection while playing sports or using power
tools, and keep dangerous products away from children. Childhood eye injuries can
lead to cataracts and glaucoma later on in life.
In observance of Cataract Awareness Month in August, PBA is offering free cataract
brochures and fact sheets in both English and Spanish by calling 1-800-331-2020 or by
logging on to www.preventblindness.org.
About Prevent Blindness America
Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness America is the nation's leading volunteer eye
health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight.
Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness America touches
the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education,
advocacy, community and patient service programs and research. These services are
made possible through the generous support of the American public. Together with a
network of affiliates, divisions and chapters, it's committed to eliminating preventable
blindness in America. For more information, or to make a contribution to the sight-
saving fund, call 1-800-331-2020 or visit us on the Web at www.preventblindness.org.