Cataracts are an extremely common condition, especially for those over 40 years of age. Although there are no proven ways to prevent cataracts, being aware of the symptoms and seeing your eye doctor regularly will allow for the most prompt and effective treatment.

Cataract definition

What are eye cataracts? A cataract is a clouding in the eye’s lens. A clear, healthy lens focuses the light that passes through the eye. When this lens becomes cloudy, as in eyes with cataracts, the lens is not able to focus light properly and vision appears blurry or out of focus. This can be particularly apparent at night.

According to All About Vision, there are three main types of cataracts: nuclear, cortical, and subcapsular. The various types indicate what part of the lens is experiencing the cloudiness. Subcapsular cataracts form at the back of the lens, nuclear cataracts form in the middle of the lens, and cortical cataracts form around the edges of the lens and work their way in.

What are the symptoms of cataracts

The American Optometric Association lists the following as signs and symptoms of cataracts:

  • Blurred or hazy vision
  • Reduced intensity of colors
  • Increased sensitivity to glare from lights, particularly when driving at night
  • Increased difficulty seeing at night
  • Change in the eye’s refractive error

Cataracts generally develop slowly and it is possible that you may not even notice the change at first. Over time, however, the symptoms progress and vision will be noticeably impaired. 

Causes of cataracts

CataractMany things can cause cataracts, the most common of which is simply the aging process. According to the American Optometric Association, however, several factors can contribute to the development of cataracts and increase your likelihood of experiencing them. These factors include: diabetes, ultraviolet radiation, smoking, alcohol consumption, and inadequate nutrition. Cataracts can also form after an eye injury occurs.

Cataract treatment

Cataracts can be diagnosed with an eye exam from your eye care professional. When cataracts are still in their early stages, they are often treated by adjusting your eyeglasses prescription. When the cataract progresses to the point where it is interfering with day-to-day life, cataract surgery can be performed to replace the eye’s cloudy lens. Cataract surgery involves removing the lens and placing an artificial lens in its place, allowing light to once again be focused properly. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, it is usually performed on an outpatient basis, so there is no need to stay in the hospital after surgery, although you will need to take special care of the treated eye after surgery. This includes using eye drops, sleeping with an eye shield, and avoiding intense activity. There is little need to worry about surgical cataract fails, as it is one of the most common and safest procedures performed today.

If you think you may have a cataract, consult your eye care professional.