EyeCare America Works to Prevent Blindness Caused by Cataracts

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National Non-profit Provides No Cost Eye Exams to Seniors during National Cataract Awareness Month this August

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My eyesight has improved a lot and I feel blessed... But for you and (my doctor) I might still be groping in the darkness and stumbling throughout the rest of my life

Did you know that cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss among adults 55 and older? In fact, more than half the people over age 65 have some degree of cataract development.

Moreover, a recent study out of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston indicates that seniors suffering from poor vision have shown evidence of a premature mental decline. The results of this study clearly bring to light the importance of routine eye care for older adults, who are at increased risk of eye conditions that cause severe visual impairment such as cataracts. What people may not know is that vision loss caused by cataracts can be easily treated.

In honor of "Cataract Awareness Month," taking place in August, EyeCare America encourages people to call the EyeCare America Seniors EyeCare Program. This year-round program offers eye exams and care to seniors who are without an ophthalmologist (a medical eye doctor). To see if you, a loved one or a friend, 65 and older, is eligible to receive a referral for an eye exam and care, call 1-800-222-EYES (3937). The EyeCare America help line operates all day, every day, year-round.

"My eyesight has improved a lot and I feel blessed... But for you and (my doctor) I might still be groping in the darkness and stumbling throughout the rest of my life," said Mr. Atma Tyagi, a 78-year old EyeCare America patient who underwent cataract surgery.

What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye, the part of the eye that focuses light and produces clear images. Inside of the eye, the lens is contained in a sealed bag or capsule. As old cells die they become trapped within the capsule. Over time, more cells die and accumulate causing the lens to cloud, making images look blurred or fuzzy. For most people, cataracts are a natural result of aging. But, eye injuries, certain medications, and diseases such as diabetes and alcoholism have also been known to cause cataracts.

In the early stages, stronger lighting and eyeglasses may lessen vision problems caused by cataracts. At a certain point, however, surgery may be needed to improve vision. Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States. More than 90% of the people who have cataract surgery regain useful vision.

EyeCare America's Seniors EyeCare Program bridges the healthcare gap for the aging U.S. population. Through the program, those who are eligible receive a dilated medical exam and up to one year of treatment at no out-of-pocket cost. EyeCare America is able to provide this no cost care through its network of volunteer ophthalmologists who waive patient co-payments and accept Medicare as payment in full for their services. Patients without insurance are not charged.

EyeCare America's Seniors EyeCare Program is designed for people who:

  • Are U.S. citizens or legal residents
  • Are age 65 and older
  • Have not seen an ophthalmologist in three or more years
  • Do not belong to an HMO or the VA

For a Seniors EyeCare Program referral, those interested may call the toll-free help line 1.800.222.EYES (3937). The Seniors EyeCare Program help line operates 24 hours a day, every day, year-round.

The Seniors EyeCare Program is co-sponsored by the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc. and Alcon.

About EyeCare America
Established in 1985, EyeCare America, the public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, is committed to the preservation of sight, accomplishing its mission through public service and education. EyeCare America provides eye care services to the medically underserved and for those at increased risk for eye disease through its corps of 7,000 volunteer ophthalmologists dedicated to serving their communities. More than 90 percent of the care made available is provided at no out-of-pocket cost to the patients. EyeCare America includes programs for seniors, glaucoma, AMD, diabetes and children, and is the largest program of its kind in American medicine. Since its inception, EyeCare America has helped more than 1 million people. EyeCare America is a non-profit program whose success is made possible through charitable contributions from individuals, foundations and corporations. More information can be found at: http://www.eyecareamerica.org .

MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Neves, Communications Director - 415.561.8518, aneves(at)aao(dot)org

NOTE TO EDITORS AND PRODUCERS: High-resolution images and interviews with EyeCare America spokespeople, physicians and patients available upon request.

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