What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear crystalline lens of the eye. This prevents the lens from properly focusing light on the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in a loss of vision. A cataract is not a film that grows over the surface of the eye, as is often commonly thought.
Why are they called cataracts?
Sometimes cataracts can be seen as a milkiness on the normally black pupil. In ancient times, it was believed this cloudiness was caused by a waterfall – or cataract – behind the eye.
Who gets cataracts?
Cataracts are most often found in persons over the age of 55, but they are also occasionally found in younger people, including newborns.
What causes cataracts?
It is known that a chemical change within the eye causes the lens to become cloudy. The change may be due to advancing age or it may be the result of heredity, an injury or a disease.
Excessive exposure to ultraviolet or infrared radiation present in sunlight or from furnaces, cigarette smoking and/or the use of certain medications are also cataract risk factors. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes, often at different rates.
Can cataracts be prevented and treated?
Currently, there is no proven method to prevent cataracts from forming.
If your cataract develops to a point that daily activities are affected, you will be referred to an eye surgeon who may recommend the surgical removal of the cataract.
Prescription changes in your eyewear will help you see more clearly until surgery is necessary, but surgery is the only proven means of effectively treating cataracts. The surgery is relatively uncomplicated and has a very high success rate.