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Thursday, September 23, 2010


A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye that affects your vision. Cataracts are more common in older people. By the age of 80, about half of all people will either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. Cataracts cannot spread from one eye to another but some people will get cataracts in both eyes.

The lens of the eye lies behind the iris and the pupil. (For a great interactive diagram of the eye, check out this link from the National Eye Institute (http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/eyediagram/) . The lens is the part of the eye that focuses the light onto the retina in the back of the eye where the image is recorded. This is very similar to the way a camera lens works. The lens of the eye is made up mostly of water and protein. As we age, the protein thickens into clumps that can cloud parts of the lens. As the cataracts get larger, they get cloudier, making it harder to see.

Some ways to protect your vision:

Wear sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats when out in the sun since long exposure to bright sunlight is one of the risk factors. Smoking is also a risk factor so if you smoke, stop! (Smoking can lead to a host of other health problems, also.) Researchers also believe that a good diet can help prevent cataracts and they recommend eating such things as green leafy vegetables, fruit, and other foods containing antioxidants.

These are some of the common symptoms of cataracts:

Blurry vision
Colors that seem faded
Not being able to see well at night
Double vision
Frequent prescription changes in your eye wear

The National Eye Institute lists these tests for the diagnosis of cataracts:

Visual acuity test. This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.

Dilated eye exam. Drops are placed in your eyes to widen, or dilate, the pupils. Your eye care professional uses a special magnifying lens to examine your retina and optic nerve for signs of damage and other eye problems. After the exam, your close-up vision may remain blurred for several hours.

Tonometry. An instrument measures the pressure inside the eye. Numbing drops may be applied to your eye for this test.


Early cataracts can be treated with such things as anti-glare sunglasses, magnifying lenses, and new eyeglasses. If these things don't help, then surgery becomes the only other option. Surgery is usually only done when the cataracts get bad enough to interfere with normal daily activities like driving a car, reading or watching television. You need to talk to your eye care professional in order to make the appropriate decision.

For more comprehensive information on cataracts, check out these links:

Facts about Cataracts from the National Eye Institute

Facts & Myths about Cataracts from Prevent Blindness America

Cataract Surgery from the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

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