Could you have cataracts?

A cataract occurs when there are changes in the proteins that make up the normally clear lens of the eye. This causes the lens to become cloudy or opaque, preventing clear vision. Cataracts can form very slowly, with the first signs including:

  • Clouded vision
  • Glaring or sensitivity to bright light
  • Poor night vision
  • Faded color vision
  • Double or multiple vision in one eye
  • Frequent changes in prescriptions for eyeglasses or contact lenses

Your eye care professional can provide you with a comprehensive eye exam to diagnose your vision-related symptoms, and will be able to tell you if your symptoms are related to cataracts.

Who can get cataracts?

Typically, cataracts occur as we age. More than 17 percent of Americans 40 years and older have a cataract in one or both eyes. More than half of all Americans ages 80 and older have cataracts.

Other causes can be:

  • Smoking/alcohol
  • Trauma (accidents)
  • Excessive sun (UV) exposure
  • Certain medications
  • Diabetes

Can cataracts be treated?

Cataract treatment usually is based on the severity of the symptoms. Stronger eyeglass lenses, the use of anti-reflective lens coating, or stronger lighting while reading, may help while symptoms are minimal. When cataracts interfere with your everyday activities (such as reading, driving or watching TV) you may need surgery to replace the clouded lens with a clear, artificial one.

Cataract removal is one of the most common, safe and effective operations performed in the United States. Although most cataracts are related to aging, there are steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing them.

  • Since cataracts can be caused by UV exposure, wear visors and sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection.
  • Avoid smoking and second-hand cigarette smoke.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
  • Increase the amounts of antioxidants in your diet, or take antioxidant vitamin supplements.
  • Keep medical conditions that increase your cataract risk, such as diabetes, under control.
  • Routinely visit your eye care doctor for comprehensive eye exams.