What is a cataract?
Inside our eyes, we have a natural lens. The lens bends (refracts) light rays that come into the eye to help us see. The lens should be clear. But if you have a cataract, your lens has become cloudy. It is like looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield. Things look blurry, hazy or less colorful with a cataract.
What causes cataracts?
Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. This is due to normal eye changes that happen after age 40. That is when normal proteins in the lens start to break down. This is what causes the lens to get cloudy. Other reasons you may get cataracts include having certain medical problems, such as diabetes or having had an eye injury, eye surgery or radiation treatments on your upper body or having spent a lot of time in the sun, especially without sunglasses that protect your eyes from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Most age-related cataracts develop gradually. Other cataracts can develop more quickly, such as those in younger people or those in people with diabetes. Doctors cannot predict how quickly a person’s cataract will develop.
What are symptoms of a cataract?
Here are some vision changes you may notice if you have a cataract:
- Having blurry vision
- Seeing double (when you see two images instead of one)
- Being extra sensitive to light
- Having trouble seeing well at night, or needing more light when you read
- Seeing bright colors as faded or yellow instead
When you have a cataract, your eye’s naturally clear lens is cloudy. Eventually your vision will be hazy and blurry. The only way to remove a cataract is with surgery.
During cataract surgery, your eye surgeon will remove your eye’s cloudy natural lens. Then he or she will replace it with a clear artificial lens. This new lens is called an intraocular lens (or IOL). When you decide to have cataract surgery, your doctor will talk with you about IOLs and how they work.