What is a Cataract?

A cataract occurs when the eye’s naturally clear lens becomes cloudy. The eye lens is a small transparent oval that sits behind the iris and the pupil. When the lens becomes cloudy, light rays cannot easily pass through to the retina. This causes vision to become blurry or fuzzy. A cataract is not a growth or a film. Cataracts generally form slowly and without pain. A cataract can occur in one eye or both. It cannot spread from one eye to the other.

What causes a Cataract?

Cataracts usually develop as part of the normal aging process. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. Cataracts can also result from eye injuries; certain diseases, such as diabetes; some medications, such as steroids; genetic inheritance; or frequent, unprotected exposure to UV-A and UV-B rays from the sun.

Symptoms of Cataracts

Cataracts start out small and have little effect on vision at first. But as the cataract grows, it clouds more of the lens. Common symptoms are:

  • Painless blurring of vision
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Double vision in one eye
  • Poor night vision
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Frequent changes in glasses or contact lens prescriptions

How is a Cataract treated?

If your vision is only slightly blurry, a cataract may not need to be treated. Changing your eyeglass prescription, brighter lighting, or anti-glare lenses may help to improve your vision for a while. Once a cataract has formed, no medications, eye drops, exercises or glasses will cause it to disappear.

Surgery is the only way to remove a cataract. Consider surgery when you are unable to see well enough to do the things you like to do. Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective types of surgery. During this surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens.

To learn more: Facts about Cataracts from the National Eye Institute