An in-depth report on the causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cataracts.
Cataracts are a common age-related vision problem that involves clouding of the lens in the eye. About 22 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts. The older a person gets, the greater the risk for developing cataracts. Women are more likely to develop cataracts than men, and African-Americans and Hispanic Americans are at particularly high risk.
In addition to age, other factors may increase the risk of cataract development. These include:
- Overexposure to sunlight
- Certain medications, such as steroids
During the early stages, cataracts may have little effect on vision. Symptoms vary due to the type of cataract in the eye (nuclear, cortical, or posterior subcapsular). Depending on the type and extent of the cataract, people may experience the following symptoms:
- Cloudy vision
- Double or blurry vision
- Glare and sensitivity to bright lights
- Colors appear faded
- Difficulty reading due to reduced black-white contrast
- Difficulty driving at night
Cataracts never go away on their own, but some stop progressing after a certain point. If cataracts continue to grow and progress, they can cause blindness if left untreated. Fortunately, cataracts can almost always be successfully treated with surgery. Millions of cataract operations are performed each year in the United States, and there is a very low risk for complications. However, before opting for surgery, people need to consider on an individual basis how severely a cataract interferes with their quality of life. Cataract surgery is rarely an emergency, so people have time to consult with their doctors and carefully consider the risks and benefits of surgery.
Cataract Removal Surgery
Surgery involves removing the cataract and replacing the abnormal lens with a permanent implant called an intraocular lens (IOL). The operation takes less than 1 hour and is performed on an outpatient basis. The procedure is generally painless and most people remain awake, but sedated, during it. If you have cataracts in both eyes, doctors recommend waiting at least 1 to 2 weeks between surgeries.