Cataracts: What are Cataracts?
A cataract is a painless, progressive vision impairing clouding of your eye’s natural internal lens. The lens is located behind the iris (colored part of your eye) and works much like a camera lens. As Cataracts develop, light becomes blocked from properly passing through the lens, which often causes blurred or fuzzy vision, and sometimes sensitivity to light.
In most cases, Cataracts are related to growing older, but sometimes develop in younger people due to certain medical conditions (like diabetes), eye inflammation, eye injury, or even certain medications (like steroids). Being a progressive condition, Cataracts can even cause blindness over extended periods of time if left untreated.
Full Eye Function Detail: Light enters the eye, passes through the cornea, then through the aqueous humor (transparent fluid in the front of the eye), then through the pupil and into the lens. Once to the lens, lights is transmitted onto the retina, into the optic nerve, and finally to the brain to process the image.
Cataracts: What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts?
Cataracts are normally slow to form, so symptoms also start gradually and many times go unchecked until light is noticeably blocked. Early symptoms include an increase in difficulty seeing at night, bright colors becoming dull, or sharp images becoming cloudy, foggy, blurry or filmy.
Additional symptoms include:
- Seeing halos or starburst around bright lights
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Colors change due to a discolored lens (normally fading or yellowing)
- Double vision (superimposed image feeling)
- Problems with glare during the day
- Frequent or sudden prescription changes for glasses or contacts
- Reading glasses or bifocals no longer seem to help
- Progressive nearsightedness (often called “second sight” because while distance vision deteriorates, reading glasses may no longer be need)
Cataracts: What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts are caused by a buildup of protein in the lens. This happens when new cells form on the outside of the lens forcing and compacting older cells into the center of the lens making it cloudy.
Causes of cataracts:
- Advancement in age
- Certain eye injuries
- Glaucoma/Retinal disorders
- Ultraviolet radiation
- They can be heredity
- Certain metabolic conditions
- Cigarette smoking
- Air pollution
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Some medications including long-term use of oral steroids
Cataracts: How Are Cataracts Treated?
For a time, vision can be acceptably corrected with glasses or contacts, but there are currently no medical treatments to prevent or reverse development of cataracts. Once they begin to affect daily life, cataract surgery is really the only option.
Cataract surgery is highly successful in restoring vision and is normally conducted on an outpatient basis. And, since more than half of people over the age of 60 have developed cataracts, and almost everyone will end up developing them at some point, cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery in the United States.
The Surgery itself involves removing the natural, cloudy lens so it can be replaced with a clear, artificial lens. More than 1.5 million cataract surgeries are preformed each year, with far more than 90% of patients obtaining an improvement in vision.
For more information please visit our Cataract Surgery page.