Between the yellow sunrises and the orange sunsets, from bright blue skies to starry nightscapes, Florida easily stands out as one of the country’s most visually appealing states. For these diverse visual features and more, it’s no wonder why so many families and individuals choose the Sunshine State as a retirement destination. And yet, due to maladies such as cataracts, not all of its citizens and welcomed visitors share the same view of our great state.
For the many citizens diagnosed with cataracts, this is an unfortunate reality. Cataracts, a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision, are a leading cause of visual impairment among aging Americans, affecting more than 22 million Americans aged 40 and older. That number is predicted to increase to 30.1 million by 2020. In 2007, Florida was ranked No.1 in residents aged 65 and older who are diagnosed with age-related eye diseases. These individuals are our parents, neighbors and loved ones, so it is important we do all that we can to increase awareness as we recognize August as Cataract Awareness Month.
The cataract visual impairment can become an incredible burden for its victims as it decreases the quality of life, ability to read, color perception, affects one’ independence, greatly increases the risk of injury and can destroy self-esteem, which may lead to depression. While being diagnosed with cataracts is a serious measure, there are early symptoms and signs of detection to help prevent any further occurrence of symptoms like faded color perception, cloudy or blurry vision, or frequently changing your prescription in your glasses or contact lenses.
Due to the large amount of sun we receive year round, Florida residents should take precaution and wear sunglasses and hats with a brim. Another source of protection comes from living a healthy lifestyle. Eating a diet of healthy foods (such as colorful fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), exercising, and not smoking can prevent cataracts. These are important steps we can take to live happier and healthier lives, empowering us to enjoy all the beauty the Sunshine State has to offer.
The Department of Education’s Division of Blind Services helps Floridians who are blind or visually impaired to acquire the skills and tools to live more independently within their homes and communities. Blind Services can assist individuals with adjustment to blindness, use of assistive technology, travel training and independent living skills. For more information about resources that support individuals with visual disabilities, contact Florida’s Division of Blind Services.