A cataract starts out small and at
first has little effect on your vision. You may notice that your vision is
blurred a little, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass or viewing an
A cataract may make light from the
sun or a lamp seem too bright or glaring. Or you may notice when you drive at
night that the oncoming headlights cause more glare than before. Colors may not
appear as bright as they once did.
The type of cataract you have will
affect exactly which symptoms you experience and how soon they will occur. When
a nuclear cataract first develops, it can bring about a temporary improvement
in your near vision, called "second sight."
Unfortunately, the improved vision
is short-lived and will disappear as the cataract worsens. On the other hand, a
subcapsular cataract may not produce any symptoms until it's well-developed.
If you think you have a cataract,
see an eye doctor for
an exam to find out for sure.
Though there is significant controversy
about whether cataracts can be prevented, a number of studies suggest certain
nutrients and nutritional supplements may reduce your risk of cataracts.
Good food sources of vitamin E
include sunflower seeds, almonds and spinach. Good sources of lutein and
zeaxanthin include spinach, kale and other green, leafy vegetables.
Other studies have shown
antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and foods containing omega-3
fatty acids may reduce cataract risk.
Visit our Nutrition & Eyes
section to read more about eye vitamins and
how a healthful diet and good
nutrition may help prevent cataracts.
Another step you can take to reduce
your risk of cataracts is to wear protective sunglasses that
block 100 percent of the sun's UV rays when you are outdoors.
When symptoms begin to appear, you
may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses, strong bifocals,
magnification, appropriate lighting or other visual aids.
Think about surgery when your
cataracts have progressed enough to seriously impair your vision and affect
your daily life.
Many people consider poor vision an
inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless
procedure to regain vision. Cataract surgery is
very successful in restoring vision. In fact, it is the most frequently
performed surgery in the United States, with more than 3 million Americans
undergoing cataract surgery each year, according to PBA.
Nine out of 10 people who have
cataract surgery regain very good vision, somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40.
During surgery, the surgeon will
remove your clouded lens and in most cases replace it with a clear, plastic
intraocular lens (IOL).
New IOLs are being developed all
the time to make the surgery less complicated for surgeons and the lenses more
helpful to patients. Presbyopia-correcting
IOLs potentially help you see at all
distances, not just one. Another new type of IOL blocks both ultraviolet
and blue light rays,
which research indicates may damage the retina.
Read more on this website about
what to expect if you have cataract surgery and how to deal with rare cataract surgery
Also, men should be aware that
certain prostate drugs can cause intraoperative
floppy iris syndrome (IFIS) during a cataract
A cataract is a clouding of the
eye's natural lens, which lies behind the iris and
Cataracts are the most common cause
of vision loss in people over age 40 and is the principal cause of blindness in
the world. In fact, there are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are
of glaucoma, macular
degeneration and diabetic
retinopathy combined, according to Prevent
Blindness America (PBA).
Today, cataracts affect more than
22 million Americans age 40 and older. And as the U.S. population ages, more
than 30 million Americans are expected to have cataracts by the year 2020, PBA
Types of cataracts include:
A subcapsular cataract occurs
at the back of the lens. People with diabetes or those taking high doses
of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a subcapsular
A nuclear cataract forms
deep in the central zone (nucleus) of the lens. Nuclear cataracts usually
are associated with aging.
A cortical cataract is
characterized by white, wedge-like opacities that start in the periphery of
the lens and work their way to the center in a spoke-like fashion. This
type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which is the part of the
lens that surrounds the central nucleus.
What Causes Cataracts?
The lens inside the eye works
much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina for
clear vision. It also adjusts the eye's focus, letting us see things clearly
both up close and far away.
The lens is mostly made of water
and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear
and lets light pass through it.
But as we age, some of the protein
may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a
cataract, and over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making
it harder to see.
No one knows for sure why the eye's
lens changes as we age, forming cataracts. But researchers worldwide have
identified factors that may cause cataracts or are associated with cataract
development. Besides advancing age, cataract risk factors include: