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What are Cataracts?

By S. Mithra
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Cataracts develop in the sensitive lens of your eye as opaque clumps of tissue. Since the lens focuses light into crisp images, just like a camera lens, this causes a particular loss of vision. Symptoms include dimness, selective blurriness, night blindness, double vision, yellowish or grey colors, or blocked regions of view. Cataracts form in old age, or can accompany other diseases such as diabetes. When diagnosed early, they are surgically removed with a high rate of success.

Light enters our eye through the pupil, travels through the lens, and lands on our retina in a focused, clear, colored picture. The lens is susceptible to accumulating lumpy strands of protein as we age. This collection interferes with exact focus and color in an image. Although cataracts are not a cloud, growth, or infection, they can still be compared to smearing oil on a camera lens. Looking through the camera, you would see blurred, obstructed, or shaded sections in your field of view because the grime has scattered the light.

Although the risk for this condition is extremely high in those individuals aged above 50, they are not the first stage in total blindness in both eyes. These growths can seriously compromise common activities, like reading, driving at night, watching television, or even walking in unfamiliar territory, but they do not always get progressively worse until you cannot see at all. Accurate diagnosis by an ophthalmologist can separate your vision problems from diseases of the retina, optic nerve, cornea, or brain that might be caused by unrelated eye conditions like macular degeneration or glaucoma. Consult your physician at the first sign of vision loss.

Since 70% of people older than 75 have at least one cataract, early diagnosis is the most important part of the healing process. Mild cases can be temporarily treated with a different eyeglass prescription, or simple lifestyle changes such as only driving during the day or using a brighter light to read. A permanent solution is cataract surgery under local anesthetic. While you should discuss the risks of surgery with your health care provider, this common procedure has a 95% success rate. Make sure to visit your eye doctor every 1-3 years, once you get above the age of 50, to catch problems sooner rather than later.

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Discussion Comments

By John57 — On Jun 10, 2011

My father has had cataract surgery, and my mother is scheduled to have one soon. The surgery itself does not take long at all - you are in and out of there before you hardly know what is going on.

There is some post-op care that you need to follow, and thankfully my Dad has not had any cataract surgery complications. I know some people who have had some complications after the surgery, but most of the time you just need to follow their instructions, and you will be fine.

By bagley79 — On Jun 09, 2011

Cataract surgery is very common and hundreds are done every day. A good friend of mine has had a cataract operation on each eye. With one eye, she has had more than one surgery.

After having radiation for cancer, she noticed big changes in her eyesight and when she went to the doctor he told her she had cataracts. She was surprised because she was not that old, but he said that the radiation probably was the cause she developed them so early.

By hamimi — On Feb 15, 2009

Dear Madam dear Sir,

My son is 16 years old. He can't see at night. He is wearing glasses in the day (short-seeing).

Can I get advice? Whether his case could be treated

Thanks-Saeed Al-Hamimi

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