When our vision starts to become blurry, it’s natural to assume that glasses or contact lenses will solve the problem. If the blurriness is caused by cataracts, new glasses may help for a while. But ultimately, the only cure for cataracts is surgery. In fact, by age 80, more than half of all American either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery.
Inside the eye is a lens much like the lens in a camera. The lens acts to focus light onto the retina at the back of the eye. It also adjusts the eye’s focus so we can see things clearly at a distance and up close. This lens is made up mainly of water and protein. As we age, the protein in the eye may start to clump together, creating the cloudy area we call a cataract.
Trying to look through a cataract is like looking through a dirty windshield on the car. You can see, but object are not as clear as they should be. The more cloudy the lens becomes, the harder it is too see. Early in this process, a stronger glasses prescription may help. But over time, the lens becomes too cloudy for a new prescription to make a difference. Often, the lens also takes on a yellowish tinge which can make colors look washed out. While cataracts may develop in both eyes, having a cataract in one eye does not necessarily mean both eyes will be affected.
Types of Cataracts
Cataracts are typically considered to be part of the aging process. But it is also possible to develop cataracts for other reasons:
• Secondary cataracts – these may form after surgery for other eye conditions, or as a result of other health problems including diabetes.
• Traumatic cataracts – cataracts may form as a result of an eye injury, even years after the injury happened.
• Congenital cataracts – some babies are born with cataracts, often in both eyes. Other children may develop cataracts early in life.
• Radiation cataracts – exposure to certain types of radiation may cause cataracts to develop.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Your eye care professional will check for signs of cataracts during your regular eye exams.