With June being Cataract Awareness month, millions of Americans over the age of 40 have some degree of cataracts, which is the clouding of the natural lens in the eye.

The solution is most often, surgery with the minimal need for eyeglasses afterward, Dr. Joseph Calderone of Better Vision NJ in Cranford.

About 4 million cataract surgeries are done in the U.S. every year, he said. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with more than 10,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 each day, by the year 2050, more than 50 million Americans will have cataracts, which would double the current number.

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Calderone said there are risk factors with cataracts, with age at number one. He said every person on the planet will get cataracts if they live long enough. There's really no way to avoid it. Other risk factors include hereditary influences, eye injuries, smoking, long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun, long-term steroid use, diabetes and even events before someone is born such as German measles in the mother.

Untreated cataracts have the potential to cause dangerous accidents and injuries, said Calderone. One of the greatest hazards is driving. Cataracts affect the ability to see clearly, especially when driving at night. Cataracts can also lead to legal blindness, glaucoma or event total blindness if left untreated for too long.

The sooner the cataracts are removed, the more favorable the final outcome for the patient. He said 99% of patients see better after cataract surgery. "It can change your life," he added.

The good news is that cataracts are fixable and there have been made advances in cataract surgery, greatly improving vision quality, even reducing reliance on prescription glasses and contacts.

Cataract surgery is done through small incisions with no stitches usually. The procedure is around a 30 minutes or less.

Once the old, cloudy lens is removed, a new intraocular lens is implanted. Calderone said with new technology, eye surgeons can customize the type of IOL based on a person's vision needs. For example, if someone has astigmatism, there's an astigmatism implant. If a patient wants to see distance, a multifocal implant can be used. If someone has a hard cataract of if they want state-of-the-art instrumentation during the surgery, surgeons can add laser assisted cataract surgery which makes the procedure easier for the surgeon.

He said it's really a simple procedure with great results.

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