Regarded as one of the leading causes of vision loss in the United States, cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens, which blocks or changes the passage of light into the eye. It is also one of the leading causes of blindness in the world. The nation’s oldest voluntary health organization, Prevent Blindness America has declared June as Cataract Awareness Month to educate the public on symptoms, types of cataract, cataract surgery and more. People should be well educated about this disease and its treatment options, because, if not treated, cataract can lead to blindness. The only effective treatment for cataract is surgery, which is the most common procedure performed by ophthalmic surgeons. The procedure accounts for a large number of claims that ophthalmology medical billing companies process. Experienced medical billing companies can assist physicians with their medical coding and claims submission.
Being the world’s leading cause of blindness, cataract accounts for approximately 42 percent of all cases of blindness in all nations. According to the report “Future of Vision: Forecasting the Prevalence and Costs of Vision Problems”, United States alone accounts for more than 25 million Americans who have cataract. As the population in America continues to age, the number of cataract cases is projected to increase by 50 percent to 38.5 million by 2032.
The normal clear lens of one’s eyes get clouded with cataract and people who have cataracts, will be seeing through this cloudy lenses which might be like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. This is because, the lens of the eye is located behind the pupil and the colored iris – which is normally transparent. Vision may become blurry or dim because the cataract stops light from properly passing through to the retina. Generally, a cataract does not cause pain, redness or tears, but this clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or see the expression on a friend’s face.
Even though the exact cause of this condition is unknown, most cataracts develop when aging or injury changes the tissue (that makes up your eye’s lens). Sometimes inherited genetic disorders, other eye conditions, past eye surgery or medical conditions such as diabetes can also increase the risk of cataracts. Other risk factors for cataract include:
- Intense heat or long-term exposure to UV rays from the sun
- Inflammation in the eye
- Events before birth, such as German measles in the mother
- Long-term use of steroid medications
- Eye injuries
Though most cataract cases in the United States are in older adults, this condition is also sometimes found in young people, or children, or even newborn babies (pediatric cataracts). According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cataracts in a child can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired (develop after birth). Without treatment, cataracts found in young children can cause poor development of the visual pathway between the brain and the eye, leading to vision impairment. Therefore, diagnosing and treating cataracts early in children is critical to promoting normal vision development.
Signs and Symptoms of a Cataract
Signs and symptoms that may indicate a cataract include:
- Having a blurred vision, double vision, ghost images, or the sense of a “film” over your eyes.
- Lights seem too dim for reading or close-up work.
- You are dazzled by strong light.
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
You may also be able to see the cataract in your eye, as it may look like a milky or yellowish spot in your pupil.
During the starting stage of cataract, the cloudiness in the patient’s vision may affect only a small part of the eye’s lens and the patient may be unaware of any vision loss. But as the cataract grows larger, it clouds more of the lens and distorts the light passing through the lens, which may lead to more noticeable symptoms. Once patients notice any changes in their vision, it is vital to make an appointment for an eye exam immediately.
Diagnosis & Treatment
After reviewing medical history and symptoms, ophthalmologists may conduct several tests such as visual acuity test, slit-lamp examination and retinal exam to determine whether the patient has a cataract or not. The only effective treatment is a cataract surgery, which requires a surgeon to remove the deteriorated lens and replace it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). According to Your Sight Matters, over 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery annually, making it one of the most common surgeries in the United States. The entire surgery lasts only about 20 minutes, and most people can resume normal activities fairly rapidly.
However, the diagnosis tests and treatment procedures must be carefully documented using the correct medical codes. Medical billing and coding companies can assist physicians with their medical coding and claims submission. In ICD-10-CM, codes for cataract come under the category – H25 – H28. Under each specific cataract type, there are several sub-category codes.
- H25: Age-related cataract
- H25.0: Age-related incipient cataract
- H25.1: Age-related nuclear cataract
- H25.2: Age-related cataract, morgagnian type
- H25.8: Other age-related cataract
- H25.9: Unspecified age-related cataract
- H26: Other cataract
- H26.0: Infantile and juvenile cataract
- H26.1: Traumatic cataract
- H26.2: Complicated cataract
- H26.3: Drug-induced cataract
- H26.4: Secondary cataract
- H26.8: Other specified cataract
- H26.9: Unspecified cataract
- H28: Cataract in diseases classified elsewhere
Several strategies may be helpful to prevent cataract or slow the progression of cataract which include:
- Have regular eye examinations to detect cataracts and other eye problems in their earliest stages.
- Quit smoking.
- Reduce alcohol use as excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of cataracts.
- Manage other health problems such as diabetes or other medical conditions that can increase the risk of cataract.
- Choose a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables to ensure sufficient intake of vitamins and nutrients to help maintain the health of the eyes.
- Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet B (UVB) rays when outdoors, because UV light from the sun may contribute to the development of cataracts
The goal of this month-long initiative by Prevent Blindness is to generate awareness about cataract. Founded in 1908, Prevent Blindness is dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Focused on promoting a continuum of vision care, Prevent Blindness touches the lives of millions of people each year through public and professional education, advocacy, certified vision screening and training, community and patient service programs and research.
The president and CEO of Prevent Blindness, Jeff Todd says that, “although cataract is the world’s leading cause of vision loss, it is an eye disease that can be treated successfully with access to quality eye care services. We strongly encourage everyone to educate themselves on cataract and what services are available to see clearly today and in the years to come.”