What normally causes cataracts?

In a normal eye, light rays pass through a clear lens and are focused onto the retina to produce a bright clear image.  As our body ages, the lens continue to grow and harden thereby losing its transparency.  This results in dull, cloudy, or blurred vision .  This condition, known as an age-related cataract, is normal and occurs eventually to most people.

If the clouding is mild or affects only a small area of the lens, the vision may be hindered only slightly.  If the clouding is extensive and affects the entire lens, the vision will become severely limited.

What else causes cataracts (less common types – not related to aging)?

Congenital or developmental cataracts, which can occur in children.  they may be hereditary or can be associated with some birth defects.  Some occur without any obvious cause.

Secondary cataracts caused by other eye diseases or previous surgery within the eye.  Formation of secondary cataracts may be accelerated by a chronic disease such as diabetes or excessive use of steroid medications.

Traumatic cataracts related directly to an eye injury.  Traumatic cataracts may appear immediately following injury, or develop several months to even years later.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

If you have cataracts, you may be experiencing any of the following  symptoms – dulled or yellowed vision, painless blurring or dimming of vision, distortion of ghost images in either eye, sensitivity to light and glare, especially in bright sunlight or while driving at night, or reduced depth perception.

A cataract is not any of the following – a growth or film over the surface of the eye, a cause of irreversible blindness, a result of overusing the eyes, a contagious disease spread from eye to eye or person to person.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

An instrument called a slit lamp bio-microscope provides your ophthalmologist with a magnified, three dimensional view of the lens.  A thorough examination will detect the presence of a cataract, as well as any other eye conditions that may cause blurred vision or eye discomfort.

Cataract Surgery

Many people ask “Is surgery the only treatment for cataracts?”  If your vision is only slightly blurry, a change in your eyeglass prescription may help for awhile.  However, if you are still unable to see well enough to do the things you like or need to do after the change in eyeglass prescription, cataract surgery should be considered.  Surgery is the only way to remove a cataract.  There are no medications, eyedrops, exercises, or special glasses that will make it disappear.