What is cataracts?

Cataracts are a common eye condition that causes a “clouding” of the natural lens in the eye. The lens of the eye is naturally clear and flexible, and it helps to focus light on the retina. Protein changes in the lens over time can reduce its clarity and reduce the quality of our vision.

What causes cataracts?

Ultraviolet light (UV) is one of the many influences that cause the natural lens of the eye to change resulting in cataract formation. As we age, the proteins in the lens can start to break down, making the lens of the eye cloudy. This is a common cause of cataracts, and it usually develops slowly over time.

Other factors that can contribute to the development of cataracts include:

  1. Genetics: Some people may be more predisposed to developing cataracts due to genetic factors.
  2. Diabetes: People with diabetes are at increased risk for cataracts due to changes in the lens caused by high blood sugar levels.
  3. UV radiation: Exposure to UV radiation from the sun or other sources can increase the risk of developing cataracts.
  4. Smoking: Smoking has been shown to increase the risk of developing cataracts.
  5. Medications: Some medications have been linked to the development of cataracts.
  6. Eye injuries: Injuries to the eye can increase the risk of cataracts.

Cataracts can also occur in children or young adults, but this is less common and may be caused by genetic factors, infections, or other medical conditions.

What are treatment options for Cataracts?

The primary treatment for cataracts is surgery, which involves the removal of the cloudy lens and replacement with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL). Cataract surgery is one of the most common and successful surgical procedures performed in the United States. Typical procedures are done on an outpatient basis using topical anesthesia.

During cataract surgery, the surgeon will make a small incision in the eye and use ultrasound or other techniques to break up and remove the cloudy lens. An artificial lens is then implanted in the eye to replace the natural lens. The procedure usually takes only minutes and most people are able to resume all normal activities within the following week.

The decision to have cataract surgery depends on many factors including the severity of the cataract and more importantly, the compromise of routine daily activities by reduced vision. In early cataract stages, vision can be improved with the use of glasses or contact lenses. However, as the cataract progresses and vision worsens, surgery may become necessary to improve vision and enhance your quality of life.

Cataract surgery is generally safe and effective, although no surgery is without risks. Your eye doctor can discuss the risks and benefits of cataract surgery and help you make an informed decision about the best course of treatment for you.