A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye. The lens is a clear, flexible structure that helps to focus light onto the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. When the lens becomes cloudy, it scatters light and makes it difficult to see clearly.
Cataracts are very common, especially in older adults. In fact, more than half of all Americans age 80 or older have cataracts. Cataracts can develop in one or both eyes.
The main cause of cataracts is aging. As we get older, the proteins in the lens of our eye naturally break down. This can cause the lens to become cloudy.
Other factors that can increase the risk of developing cataracts include:
- Exposure to sunlight
- Certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and glaucoma
- Family history of cataracts
Cataracts do not usually cause pain or discomfort. However, they can make it difficult to see clearly, especially in bright light. Other symptoms of cataracts include:
- Blurry vision
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Double vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty driving at night
- Difficulty reading
If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to see an eye doctor. Cataracts can be diagnosed with a simple eye exam.
There is no way to prevent cataracts, but there are things you can do to slow their progression. These include:
- Wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from sunlight
- Quitting smoking
- Controlling your blood sugar if you have diabetes
- Eating a healthy diet
The only way to treat cataracts is with surgery. Cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure that can restore your vision. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens.
Cataract surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis. You will be able to go home the same day. Most people experience good results from cataract surgery. However, there are some risks associated with the surgery, such as infection and bleeding.
If you are considering cataract surgery, talk to your eye doctor about the risks and benefits.