Your eye works a lot like a camera. Light rays focus through your lens onto the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. Similar to photographic film, the retina allows the image to be “seen” by the brain.

Over time, the lens of our eye can become cloudy, preventing light rays from passing clearly through the lens. The loss of transparency may be so mild that vision is barely affected, or it can be so severe that no shapes or movements are seen—only light and dark. When the lens becomes cloudy enough to obstruct vision to any significant degree, it is called a cataract.

What causes Cataracts?

Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. Other causes include trauma, medications such as steroids, systemic diseases such as diabetes, and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. Occasionally, babies are born with a cataract.

As you age, the lenses in your eyes become less flexible, less transparent and thicker. Age-related changes cause tissues within the lens to break down and clump together, clouding small areas within the lens. As the cataract continues to develop, the clouding becomes denser and involves a greater part of the lens.

Cataracts may develop in only one eye, but they usually develop in both of your eyes. However, the cataracts usually aren’t totally symmetrical, and the cataract in one eye may be more advanced than the other.

Symptoms

Cataracts usually form slowly and cause few symptoms until they noticeably block light. When symptoms are present, they can include:

  • Vision that is cloudy, blurry, foggy, or filmy
  • Changes in the way you see color because the discolored lens acts as a filter (fading or yellowing)
  • Glare, particularly at night
  • Double vision (like a superimposed image)
  • Sudden or frequent changes in glasses prescription

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your risk of cataracts include:

  • Increasing age
  • Diabetes
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as that used in X-rays and cancer radiation therapy
  • Family history of cataracts
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
  • Smoking

What are my options?

Talk with your eye doctor about whether surgery is right for you. Most ophthalmologists suggest considering cataract surgery when your cataract begins to affect your quality of life or interfere with your ability to perform normal daily activities, such as reading or driving at night.

Cataract surgery is a very successful operation. One and a half million people have this procedure every year in the United States, and 95% have a successful result. As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur during or after surgery, and some are severe enough to limit vision. But in most cases, vision, as well as quality of life, improves.

There are a variety of options for intraocular lens implants used to restore vision for cataract surgery patients. These implants are placed during the cataract procedure. Options may include implants that correct for distance, intermediate and near vision as well as astigmatism. CEENTA surgeons use a variety of implant types including the Symfony implant with Extended Depth of Focus, the ReSTOR and Tecnis multifocal implants, toric (astigmatism) implants and monofocal implants as well as implants for monovision. Once you have decided to proceed with cataract surgery, discuss with your surgeon which of these options are best suited for your situation.

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