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What is a Cataract?

You may have heard of cataracts, but you may not know what they are. Over 24 million people in the United States have been affected by a cataract.

If you have not experienced this condition, you may know someone who has. Because cataracts are so common, it is worth taking a moment to understand their development and symptoms. Keep reading to learn more about cataracts.

How Does a Cataract Develop?

Cataracts occur when proteins build up and begin clumping together on the natural lens of the eye. It becomes more difficult for the eye to refract light properly when this happens.

As a result, your vision becomes impaired. A cataract typically develops slowly over time.

Commonly associated with aging, they tend to start developing around the age of 60. Many individuals do not even notice they have a cataract until it interferes with their vision.

What Causes a Cataract?

Many factors can lead to the development of a cataract. For many people, the proteins and fibers in the eye break down as they get older.

Cataracts often have links to other eye conditions like glaucoma and diabetes. Some cataracts form after trauma to the eye, such as being hit with a baseball. Family history and long-term use of certain medications can also increase the risk of cataract formation. Although rarer, an infant can be born with a cataract or develop one in their first year of life.

Other risk factors include smoking, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and high blood pressure.

What Are the Symptoms of a Cataract?

The most significant symptom of a cataract is cloudy vision. Many patients say it is like seeing the world through a foggy film. Other symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to bright lights
  • Glare, especially when driving at night
  • Double vision in one eye
  • Halos around lights
  • Dull or faded colors

In addition, you may find you frequently need to update your prescription for your glasses or contacts. You may also need more light to complete detailed tasks, such as reading or knitting than you used to.

How Is a Cataract Treated?

You can only treat a cataract by having cataract surgery. The procedure involves removing the clouded lens of the eye and replacing it with a clear artificial one.

The procedure usually only takes around 30 minutes or less to complete. The recovery period is relatively short, and most patients can go home the same day. 

It can be years before you realize you have a cataract. Even then, symptoms can be mild.

Most cataract surgeons only recommend cataract surgery if you have a cataract that affects your ability to complete day-to-day tasks. Once it compromises your ability to perform necessary tasks and enjoy your favorite hobbies, it is time to consider cataract surgery.

Cataract surgery has a very high success rate, restoring unimpaired vision to millions of people every year.

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