5 Questions to Clear up Myths vs. Realties about Cataracts

5 Questions to Clear up Myths vs. Realties about Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye (the part that helps focus light), which affects vision. When the lens becomes cloudy, images become blurry. While there can be many non-age related causes of cataracts, they are very common in adults over 60. In fact, by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. i


But even though they are common, there are many misconceptions around cataracts and cataract surgery. To clear them up, here are five facts about cataracts and what you can do about them:


1. What are Some Common Cataract Symptoms?

You might not notice any cataract symptoms until it is severe enough to distort light as it enters your eye. There are however some common cataract symptoms. They include:

  • Cloudy, blurry or dim vision
  • Increasing difficulty with night vision
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Seeing rings around lights
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Double vision in a single eye ii

These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems. If you have any of these symptoms, check with your eye care professional.


2. What are Cataract Risk Factors?

People can get age-related cataracts in their 40s and 50s, but it is usually after age 60 when cataracts typically cause vision problems. The risk of cataracts do increase as we age, but there are other risk factors as well such as certain diseases like diabetes and hypertension, personal behaviors such as smoking and alcohol use and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight.iii


3. Are There Different Types of Cataracts?

There are different types of cataracts. Some include:

  • subcapsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens. People with diabetes or those taking high doses of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a subcapsular cataract.
  • nuclear cataract forms deep in the central zone (nucleus) of the lens. Nuclear cataracts usually are associated with aging.
  • cortical cataract is characterized by white, wedge-like opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the center in a spoke-like fashion. iv


4. What Causes Cataracts Exactly?

The lens of the eye works much like a camera. It focuses light onto the retina where the image is recorded. It also adjusts the eye’s focus, allowing us to see both close up and far away. The lens is made up of mostly water and protein and the protein is arranged in such a way that keeps the lens clear and allows light to pass through it. But, as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract and over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it even harder to see.v


5. What Can I Do About Cataracts?

When symptoms begin to appear, you may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses or contacts, better lighting or other visual aids. However, when cataracts progress to the point that they impair your vision and affect your daily life, cataract surgery can be very successful. Cataract surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens (IOL).

i https://nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts

ii http://www.myeyes.com/cataracts/facts-about-cataracts-aarp-infographic.shtml

iii https://nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts

iv http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/cataracts.htm

v http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/cataracts.htm