What Is a Cataract?

A cataract is a progressive clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens. The lens focuses light rays on the retina, the layer of light-sensing cells lining the back of the eye. When the lens becomes cloudy, the light rays cannot pass through it easily. Early changes may not disturb vision, but over time, cataracts typically result in blurred or fuzzy vision and sensitivity to light. People with progressed cataracts often say they feel as if they’re looking through a waterfall or a piece of wax paper. Other common symptoms include glare, starbursts, halos, difficult distance or near vision, distorted vision, and fading colors.

Over 50% of people over the age of 60 (and quite a few younger than that) suffer from cataracts. Almost everyone develops cataracts as they grow older. Cataract formations occur at different rates and can affect one or both eyes.

Symptoms of Cataracts

  •     Decreasing vision with age
  •     Blurred or double vision
  •     Seeing halos around bright lights
  •     Difficulty seeing at night
  •     Vision that worsens in sunlight
  •     Difficulty distinguishing colors
  •     Poor depth perception
  •     Frequent prescription changes for glasses
  •     Difficulty reading

Causes of Cataracts

  •     Age
  •     Eye trauma
  •     Heredity
  •     Diabetes
  •     Some medications including long-term use of oral steroids
  •     Ultraviolet radiation
  •     Smoking
  •     Glaucoma
  •     Certain metabolic conditions

Diagnosing Cataracts

Your eye doctor can perform a contrast sensitivity test to determine how much your vision has been affected by a cataract. But typically, when decreased vision affects your everyday activities or hobbies, a cataract should be treated.

Treating Cataracts

Cataracts are the most common cause of preventable blindness in the world. Currently, there is no medical treatment to reverse or prevent the development of cataracts. Once they form, the only way to achieve clear vision again is through cataract surgery. More than one million cataract surgeries are performed in the United States each year. It is among the most successful operations performed today.