A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye or its surrounding structures that obstructs the passage of light. The lens is a clear part of the eye that helps to focus light, or an image, on the retina.
In a normal eye, light passes through the transparent lens to the retina on the back of an eye. The lens must be clear for the retina to receive a sharp image. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred.
The truth is that it is not a matter of if you will get a cataract but when you will get one. There are actually many different types. Some are acquired in infancy, some through trauma, some through medications, and some (the ones we are talking about here) develop as part of the aging process. These age-related cataracts as also known as “senile cataracts.” Senile cataracts develop as a result of multiple factors that are complex and not fully understood. As such, no medical treatment has been proven to prevent, delay, or treat this senile form.
The symptoms that you will notice as your cataracts become significant may include blurry vision, progressive need for stronger glasses, halos around lights, especially at night, and possible dimming of vision in one or both eyes.
The most common cataract symptoms are:
- Cloudy or blurry vision.
- Colors seem faded.
- Glare. Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights.
- Poor night vision.
- Double vision or multiple images in one eye.
- Frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses.
- These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems.
If you have any of these symptoms, check with your eye care professional.
The symptoms of an early cataract may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective treatment. Fortunately, surgical techniques for removal have advanced significantly over the past few decades. Cataract surgery has an extremely high success rate and few side effects, most of which can easily be remedied. Additionally, the procedure can be done as an outpatient and usually takes less than half an hour, after which the patient may return home to recover.
For more detailed information see the National Institutes of Health National Eye Institutes: Facts About Cataracts.
EMG’s Vision Loss Homepage: Presbyopia