Education: Cataract

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens that can cause poor vision. Cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision.

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What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens, which is located behind the iris and the pupil. The lens actually works like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina and adjusting the eye's focus, allowing us to see things up close and far away.

This lens is mostly made of water and protein. Protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens, creating a cataract. Early changes don’t always disturb vision. However, over time the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, resulting in symptoms such as blurred or fuzzy vision and sensitivity to light.

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Who gets cataracts and what are the symptoms?
Cataracts are a fact of life. If we live long enough, we all get cataracts. Most people show the earliest slight hint of browning to their crystalline lens by the age of 40. This gets a little more dense by 50 and 60 and 70 years of age. As the clouding of the lens gets dense enough to drop the vision to where it interferes with day-to-day activities, it is time to consider cataract surgery. Until that time, the browning or clouding of the lens is in no way damaging the eye. So the decision is made purely on the obstruction to your normal day-to-day activities. Initially the cataract may affect only night driving or fine detail, but with time it will blur more and more and make the decision of cataract surgery more important. Cataracts can develop at any age.

There are risk factors that can hasten the development of cataracts and these include diabetes, radiation such as is used for orbital tumors, steroid use, injury to the eye, and certain medications or metabolic problems can result in cataracts at an earlier age or a more rapidly progressive cataract at any age.

At first, the cloudiness may affect a small part of the lens so you’re unaware of any vision loss. However, as the cataract grows larger, it clouds more of your lens. People with progressive cataracts describe it like looking through a waterfall or a piece of wax paper.

Here are some of most common symptoms:
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Seeing halos around bright lights
  • Vision that worsens in sunlight
  • Difficulty seeing at night (especially when driving)
  • Poor depth perception
  • Difficulty distinguishing colors
  • Frequent changes in prescription for glasses
  • Difficulty reading
  • If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, call us for an eye exam to check for cataracts. The good news is that the condition is easily treated.

What treatment options are recommended for cataracts?
When symptoms first appear, you may be able to improve your vision temporarily by using new or stronger glasses, magnification, better lighting or other visual aids. However, surgery is the only way to effectively treat a cataract.

You should consider treatment when your vision is interfering with your everyday activities. Many people consider poor vision as an inevitable part of the aging process; however cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision. Visit our procedure page to learn more about cataract surgery.