More than half of people in the United States who are over the age of 80 have been affected by cataracts: either they currently have cataracts or have had cataract surgery.

What are cataracts?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens. Cataracts usually cause a gradual decrease in vision which may eventually interfere with daily activities or even result in blindness.

There are three types of cataracts: 

  • Subcapsular: cataracts that form at the back of the lens 
  • Nuclear: cataracts that form in the center of lens 
  • Cortical: cataracts that form along the edges of the lens and move toward the center

Symptoms of cataracts

Cataract symptoms vary depending on the type of cataract.

Nuclear cataracts may initially cause an improvement in reading vision followed by yellowing of the lens and a decrease in vision.

Cortical cataracts begin forming at the edges of the lens and work their way toward the center, causing: 

  • Reduced vision 
  • Glare 
  • Halos, especially when driving at night 
  • Double vision in the affected eye (not as common as other symptoms)

Subcapsular cataracts often develop without any symptoms until the condition has become more advanced.

Causes of cataracts

Cataracts occur when proteins in the lens clump together. This blocks light from entering the eye and reduces vision. The exact cause of cataracts is unknown, but it often occurs as a result of the tissue changing due to age or injury. However, some other factors have been shown to increase the risk of developing cataracts, including: 

  • Smoking 
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight 
  • Health problems such as diabetes

Treatment for cataracts

When cataracts first develop and vision begins to decrease, new prescription lenses can help to improve vision. However, as the cataract grows, vision will continue to decrease and eventually surgery may be needed to regain eyesight. During surgery, the clouded lens will be removed and replaced with an intraocular lens (IOL). An IOL is a clear, plastic lens that can help to restore vision. There are many different IOL options to consider, some which will correct vision at multiple distances to reduce or eliminate the need for corrective lenses after surgery.

If you suspect you have cataracts, contact an eye care professional. An eye exam can be performed to help determine if cataracts are the cause of your vision problems.


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