A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of the eye that affects vision, and occurs as a natural part of aging. A healthy lens is clear, but as a cataract develops, the lens of the eye gradually becomes hard and cloudy, allowing less light to pass through and making it more difficult to see.
There are three common types of age-related cataracts that can affect vision:
- Nuclear cataract: the most common type of cataract and caused by the nucleus of the lens hardening or becoming opaque (cloudy)
- Posterior subcapsular cataract: a dense area that forms just in front of the posterior lens capsule (the back of the lens capsule)
- Cortical cataract: develops in the lens cortex, the outside edge of the lens and has a distinctive spoked appearance
What causes age-related cataracts?
Most cataracts develop from advanced aging.1 As the body ages, the lens of the eye, which consists of water and protein, can become cloudy due to protein clumping together, scattering the light landing on the retina and causing visual impairment. When the cataract blocks light, vision is disrupted.3 A cataract can develop in one or both eyes, but is independent and cannot spread from one eye to another. This condition also is more likely to occur due to the following:1,2
- Excessively drink alcohol
- Smoking tobacco
- High body mass index (BMI)
- Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
- After an unrelated eye surgery
What are the symptoms?
Age-related cataracts can develop slowly over many years; some people may not be aware they have them at first.3 In the early stages, a cataract may not cause any vision problems and initially, the cloudiness may affect only a small part of the lens. Over time, the cataract may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it more difficult to see objects clearly.2
Early symptoms include blurriness and needing more light to read, even while wearing glasses. Other common symptoms include glare, halos, double vision, difficulty with distance or near vision, and colors looking faded.3 If left untreated, cataracts can lead to blindness.2 As they develop and worsen, cataracts may also interfere with the ability to perform basic activities, such as driving and reading.3
How are cataracts diagnosed?
An eye care professional can diagnose the presence of a cataract during a comprehensive eye exam through a visual acuity test and a dilated eye exam.2
How are cataracts treated?
Cataracts are treated by removing the eye’s cloudy natural lens and replacing it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). An IOL is a man-made lens and is placed inside the eye during surgery. There are three types of IOLs:
- Monofocal IOLs have one point of focus, either distance or close up.
- Multifocal IOLs provide two or more points of focus and are designed to reduce the dependence on reading glasses as a result of presbyopia.
- Toric IOLs are designed to correct astigmatism, potentially reducing the need for glasses.
Cataract surgery is one of the most cost-effective surgeries, and patients can return to their normal routines within 24 hours.4Disclaimer:
- World Health Organization, Prevention of Blindness and Visual Impairment. [Accessed July 22, 2014]
- National Eye Institute (NEI), Facts about Cataract. [Accessed July 22, 2014]
- World Health Organization (WHO), Vision 2020 Report. [Accessed July 22, 2014]
- Eye Surgery Education Council, Cataract Surgery. [Accessed July 22, 2014]
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Cataract Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What causes cataracts and how can I prevent them?
There’s no real way to prevent cataracts, as they are simply a part of aging and are caused by a natural buildup of protein in your eye’s lens. Fortunately, they can be treated with a common and generally safe surgery.
My eye care provider said I have mature or advanced cataracts. What does this mean?
Mature or advanced cataracts means that your cataracts have developed to the point that your lens appears to be mostly opaque and makes things difficult to see. When you have mature or advanced cataracts you will usually require surgery.
When am I likely to develop cataracts?
People start to develop cataracts as early as their 40s, but generally don’t start to notice symptoms of their cataracts until their 60s.
Is there any way to correct my cataracts, besides surgery?
No, but you can manage some of the early symptoms of cataracts with new prescription glasses or contact lenses, and by wearing sunglasses to counteract light sensitivity until it’s time to have surgery.
When should I get my cataract surgery?
Usually, you only need to have cataract surgery when your cataracts start to affect your everyday vision. If you’re having trouble reading, watching TV, or driving, it’s time to talk to your eye care provider about next steps.
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Treating People – Not Just Conditions
If you or someone you know has been affected by a severe or chronic eye condition, you know just how much poor eye health can impinge on one’s quality of life. Even more minor conditions, if untreated, can profoundly interfere with one’s everyday activities.
Here are LASIK, Cornea and Cataracts Specialty Center, our doctors, are highly qualified and extensively experienced in the treatment of all eye-related conditions and diseases. When it’s your vision at stake, you can’t afford to take chances. You want the very best eye care the El Paso southwest has to offer.
Very professional and caring staff. I was very comfortable with all phases of my individual treatment and the doctor was very informative about his expectations for all tests and surgical procedures. I received first class attention by everyone at all of their locations.
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I was looking for a new eye doctor and decided to try this place due to how close and convenient they are. I am thrilled with their service. The staff was friendly, polite and did all they could to assist me. The doctors were friendly and explained everything very well. Their pricing was good and the quality exceptional. I have recommended LASIK, Cornea & Cataract Specialty/Eye C Optical to my family and am very happy to finally have a eye center I trust.