In a healthy eye, light enters the eye and is finely focused by the natural lens on to the retina, creating crisp vision. A cataract occurs when the natural lens inside your eye becomes cloudy. As light passes through this now cloudy lens, it is distorted and not focused sharply on the retina. In most cases this process occurs slowly over several years; although, some cataracts can grow much faster. The most common cause of cataracts is aging. This is because the lens begins going through normal age-related changes in your early forties. In its earlier days, the natural lens does a great job of using proteins for energy and disposing of the waste products properly to maintain clarity. However, as it ages these proteins within the lens begin to break down. By age 60 most people have some clouding of the lens. It may be years after the lens begins to cloud that you start noticing vision problems.

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Other Causes of Cataracts

Although cataracts are a normal part of the aging process in all individuals, there are other ways to develop cataracts as well. Some medical conditions, such as diabetes can cause cataracts. Using certain medications such as steroids can cause cataracts to develop earlier. Spending a lot of time in the sun can put you at risk for UV damage which may worsen cataracts. Lastly, eye trauma, injury, and surgery can all lead to the development of cataracts.

Symptoms of Cataracts

Once diagnosed with cataracts your doctor will warn you of symptoms you may begin to experience. One of the most common complaints is difficult with glare, especially when driving at night. Other symptoms include: blurry vision, double vision, poor color vision, light sensitivity, and the need for more light when reading. If you feel your vision is changing you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Treatment and Prevention of Cataracts

While cataracts cannot be prevented, you may be able to slow their development. When you go outside, make sure your eyes are protected from UV light. The best way to do this is with a high-quality pair of sunglasses. Your eyeglasses and contact lenses may also have a UV-blocking coating. Be sure to ask your doctor if your glasses or contact lenses are sufficient enough to protect your eyes from the sun. Also, eating a healthy diet and avoiding tobacco smoking products can help slow the development of cataracts. Focus on a diet full of green, leafy vegetables and avoid trans-fatty foods.

There is only one accepted treatment for cataracts, and that is surgery to remove the cloudy lens from the eye. As your cataracts begin to impact your quality of life your doctor will recommend cataract surgery. Please see our page on Laser Assisted Cataract Surgery to learn more.


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