When you have a cataract, your eye’s naturally clear lens is cloudy. Eventually, your vision will be hazy and blurry. The only way to remove a cataract is with surgery. With cataract surgery, your cloudy lens is replaced with an artificial lens. You should consider surgery when cataracts keep you from doing your daily activities. You may be able to slow the development of cataracts by protecting your eyes from the sun. It is important to see your ophthalmologist regularly to check for eye and vision changes. If you have any questions about your vision, speak with your ophthalmologist.
What is a cataract?
Inside our eyes, we have a natural lens that is clear when we are born. The lens bends (refracts) light rays that come into the eye to help us see. The lens should be clear. But if you have a cataract, your lens has become cloudy. It is like looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield. Things look blurry, hazy or less colorful with a cataract.
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
Here are some vision changes you may notice if you have a cataract:
- Having blurry vision, glare and haloes
- Seeing double (when you see two images instead of one)
- Being extra sensitive to light especially at night with oncoming lights
- Having trouble seeing well at night, or needing more light when you read
- Seeing bright colors as faded or yellow instead
What causes cataracts?
Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. This is due to normal eye changes that happen after around age 40. That is when normal proteins in the lens start to break down. This is what causes the lens to get cloudy. People over age 60 usually start to have some clouding of their lenses. However, vision problems may not happen until years later. Other reasons you may develop cataracts include:
- Having parents, brothers, sisters, or other family members who have cataracts
- Having certain medical problems, such as diabetes
- Having had an eye injury, eye surgery, or radiation treatments on your upper body
- Having spent a lot of time in the sun, especially without sunglasses that protect your eyes from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays
- The use of certain medications such as corticosteroids may cause early formation of cataracts.
Most age-related cataracts develop gradually. Other cataracts can develop more quickly, such as those in younger people or those in people with diabetes. Doctors cannot predict how quickly a person’s cataract will develop.
How are cataracts treated?
Cataracts can be removed only with surgery. If your cataract symptoms are not bothering you very much, you don’t have to remove a cataract. You might just need a new eyeglass prescription to help you see better. You should consider surgery when cataracts keep you from doing things you want or need to do.
How does cataract surgery work?
During cataract surgery, your eye surgeon will remove your eye’s cloudy natural lens. Then he or she will replace it with an artificial lens. This new lens is called an intraocular lens (IOL). When you decide to have cataract surgery, your doctor will talk with you about IOLs and how they work. Cataracts are a very common reason people lose vision, but they can be treated. You and your ophthalmologist should discuss your cataract symptoms. Together you can decide whether you are ready for cataract surgery.