A cataract is a cloudy area in the normally clear lens of the eye.

The lens is a tissue located behind the pupil that is responsible for focusing light into the retina (the back of the eye). A cataract usually forms as you get older. As a cataract grows and clouds more of the lens you may find that performing normal tasks, such as reading and driving, become more difficult.

Symptoms of cataracts may include:
 

  • Vision that is cloudy, blurry, foggy, or filmy
  • Sudden nearsightedness or sudden improvement in close-up vision
  • Changes in the way you see color, especially yellow
  • Problems driving at night because oncoming headlights are distracting
  • Double vision

What causes it?

The most common type of cataract occurs as we age. There are also cataracts that develop in babies (congenital cataracts), cataracts that occur as a result of disease (diabetes, for example), taking certain medications or exposure to toxic substance, and cataracts that form after an injury to the eye. Cataracts occur when there is a buildup of protein in which makes the lens cloudy. No one knows what causes the buildup of protein, although research indicates that exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, diet, smoking, consuming large amounts of alcohol, and exposure to air pollution, may be factors.

How is it treated?

Cataracts are removed during surgery. Cataract surgery is the most common operation performed in the U.S., and is considered one of the safest. Nearly 98% of all cataract surgeries are completed each year without serious complications. During cataract surgery, the surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a plastic lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL).

The IOLs implanted today usually provide very good vision. After cataract surgery is completed you are likely to be less dependent on eyeglasses. Cataract surgery is usually performed under local anesthesia in an outpatient operating room, so you don’t have to stay in the hospital. Surgeons usually don’t remove cataracts in both eyes at the same time. You will be scheduled for separate surgeries.