by Dr. Stephen McKinley
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. Cataracts are very common as you get older. In fact, more than half of all Americans age 70 or older either have cataracts or have had surgery to get rid of cataracts. At first, you may not notice that you have a cataract. But over time, cataracts can make your vision blurry, hazy, or less colorful. You may have trouble reading or doing other everyday activities. The good news is that surgery can get rid of cataracts.
There are many different types of cataracts
Most cataracts are age-related — they happen because of normal changes in your eyes as you get older. But you can get cataracts for other reasons — for example, after an eye injury or after surgery for another eye problem.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
You might not have any symptoms at first, when cataracts are mild. But as cataracts grow, they can cause changes in your vision. You may notice that your vision is cloudy or blurry, and that colors look faded. You can’t see well at night or you see halos around lights. You may even notice that you begin to see double.
Who is at risk for cataracts?
Your risk for cataracts goes up as you get older. You’re also at higher risk if you have diabetes, or you smoke or drink too much alcohol. Family history plays a role, have had an eye injury, or that you have taken certain medications for a long time. An example of this is steroids. Steroids can cause certain types of cataracts to show up in your eyes.
What causes cataracts?
Most cataracts are caused by normal changes in your eyes as you get older. When you’re young, the lens in your eye is clear. Around age 40, the proteins in the lens of your eye start to break down and clump together. This clump makes a cloudy area on your lens — or a cataract. Over time, the cataract gets more severe and clouds more of the lens.