Some cataracts stop progressing after a certain point. Cataracts are never reversible, however, even after eliminating factors (such as drugs or illnesses), which might have promoted their development. If extensive and progressive cataracts are left untreated they can cause blindness. In fact, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness among adults age 55 and older. More than 20 million Americans have at least one cataract. By 2020, that number is expected to jump to 30 million.
Fortunately, cataracts nearly always can be successfully removed with surgery. However, surgery is unavailable in certain parts of the world, leaving millions at risk for vision loss. Even in the U.S., where surgery has greatly reduced the risk of blindness, tens of thousands still lose their sight and millions more have poor vision because of cataracts.
Reduced vision ranks third only behind arthritis and heart disease as a cause of impaired function in older people. Some people who have small cataracts can see well enough around the clouded areas to live normally. Extensive cataracts, however, can compromise the ability to earn a living, read, drive, or live independently and can interfere greatly with daily activities.
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