A cataract is a clouding or loss of clarity of the natural lens of the eye.Cataracts are increasingly common with aging and can occur in one or both eyes.Cataracts do not spread from one eye to the other.
What causes cataracts?
Cataracts can occur with age, trauma, use of certain medications (notably steroids) and can be associated with diseases (e.g., diabetes). Cataract progression may be exacerbated by social habits (e.g., smoking and alcohol use). Extensive sun-exposure has been linked with cataract formation. Importantly, what is an insignificant cataract in one eye or in one person's life may be more impacting to another.
How can cataracts affect my life?
Cataracts can cause many visual effects:
1. Clouding of vision
· Cataracts typically start in a small part of the lens and may be noticable to the ophthalmologist but not the patient.
· The vision may worsen so gradually that the patient does not notice or adjusts to it without realizing.
· As the cataract advances, the vision may get duller or darker.
2. Change in color perception
· As cataracts develop the lens transforms from clear to yellow and eventually to brown.
· This change does not necessarily reduce acuity (vision) but color-sensitive people can misinterpret or incorrectly perceive color. Amazingly, people do not realize that this change has occured until after the cataract is removed.
3. Glare and/or sensitivity to light
· Some cataracts do not reduce acuity, such that the patient can see small letters on the chart, but the patient may be distracted by glare from lights.
· Glare and halos are particularly distressing when driving at night, crossing the street in bright daylight, or working at a computer.
Because the majority of cataracts advance gradually, people adapt to these visual changes and fail to notice the progressive compromises in their vision.
What are the common symptoms of a cataract?
In face of the typically gradual evolution of cataracts, the patient adjusts to their development aming the ophthalmologist the best qualified to identify the cataract and correlate a cataract's impact on the patient's vision.