Cataracts Basics

Healthy Aging, Healthy Living
on August 19, 2011
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Over time, the lens in the eye (the part that properly focuses light for clear sight) can become clouded and inhibit vision. This condition is called a cataract, and if left untreated, it can progressively darken or blur your vision until little or no sight remains. It is, however, considered a normal part of aging. The National Eye Institute (NEI) offers this statistic: “By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery.” Thankfully, this doesn’t mean that you just have to sit and wait for age to creep up and blind you.

Causes. Cataracts are, in a way, the lens’ scarring mechanism. Cataracts may develop as the result of an injury, exposure to radiation or as a complication of another eye issue. More rarely, some children are born with cataracts. Many age-related cataracts develop as the result of proteins inside the lens clumping and losing some of their natural integrity.

Symptoms. Over time, your vision may become blurred. The change may be barely noticeable at first, but eventually it can be very difficult or impossible to see through the cataract, and corrective lenses won’t be effective with severe cataracts. More pronounced cataracts are often visible to the naked eye as a blue-white spot inside the eye or as a blue-white glow when direct light hits the eye. In some cases, vision slowly becomes tinted brown or yellow as the cataracts progress, and you may notice halos around lights.

Treatment. Initially, corrective lenses may make it possible for you to see clearly even with cataracts. Some people choose to use magnifying glasses for reading or may opt for a magnifier program for use with their computer. The only cure for cataracts is to surgically replace the clouded lens with an artificial one. With the advances in modern technology, cataract surgery is a routine procedure in most hospitals and has a very high success rate with very few complications.