Cataracts are a very common eye condition that usually develop in people over age 55. It describes the clouding of the lens, which is located behind the colored part of the eye called the iris. Normally, the lens focuses light on the retina to provide clear vision. However, when a lens is clouded by a cataract, light is scattered, reducing focus and causing vision problems.
Common visual symptoms include blurred or hazy vision, reduced intensity of colors, increased sensitivity to glare, and increased difficulty seeing at night. Cataracts generally progress gradually but there are different types:
The third type often develops more rapidly. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes but one may be worse than the other.
The factors that contribute to cataract development include diabetes, drugs such as corticosteroids, ultraviolet radiation, smoking, high alcohol consumption, and low levels of antioxidants in nutrition. In rarer cases, cataracts can be present at birth due to infection or can be caused by trauma from eye injury or surgery.
As the cataract develops, it will likely cause a change in eyeglass prescription. Therefore, it is important that a comprehensive eye exam be performed at least annually once cataracts have been diagnosed by the eye doctor.
Once the ability to do normal everyday tasks becomes impaired, then cataract surgery may be recommended. Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective types of surgery performed in the United States today. The eye doctor will discuss the benefits and risks of cataract surgery and determine the right time for treatment.