Cataract Facts

A cataract is a clouding or opaque area over the lens of the eye. It occurs when some of the protein that makes up the lens begins to clump together. Learn More ›

Cataract and Cataract Surgery

A cataract is a clouding or opaque area over the lens of the eye - an area that is normally transparent. As this thickening occurs, it prevents light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina - the light sensitive tissue lining located in the back of the eye. This clouding is caused when some of the protein which makes up the lens begins to clump together and interferes with vision.

In its early stages, a cataract may not cause a problem. The cloudiness may affect only a small part of the lens. However, the cataract may grow larger over time and affect more of the lens, making it harder to see. As less light reaches the retina, it becomes increasingly harder to see and vision may become dull and blurry. While cataracts cannot spread from one eye to another, many persons develop cataracts in both eyes.

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Double Vision (Diplopia)

Double vision, also called diplopia, causes a person to see two images of a single object. There are two types of double vision: monocular and binocular.

Monocular diplopia is double vision in only one eye. The double vision continues even when the other eye is covered. The doubling does not go away when you look in different directions. Monocular diplopia can be caused by:

  • Astigmatism — This is an abnormal curvature of the front surface of the cornea.

  • Keratoconus — The cornea gradually becomes thin and cone-shaped.

  • Pterygium — This is a thickening of the conjunctiva, the thin mucous membrane that lines the inner surface of the eyelids and the whites of the eyes. The thickening extends on the cornea, the clear part of the surface of the eye.

  • Cataracts — The lens gradually becomes less transparent. Risk factors include being older than 65, having eye trauma or long-term diabetes, smoking, using steroid medications or having radiation treatments.

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Why We Remove Cataracts

Perhaps the first thing you'll notice is a glare from oncoming headlights at night. Usually, a haze surrounds the lights.Then, you're likely to find reading more challenging. It's harder to see the letters, and they tend to blur together.This is what happens when you develop cataracts.A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens, a clear, soft gelatinous structure behind the pupil that works much like a camera lens. The leading cause of cataracts is aging. Other contributing factors include:

  • Genetics.

  • Sunlight.

  • Metabolic diseases such as diabetes.

  • Some medications, including lengthy use of corticosteroids such as cortisone or prednisone.

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Don't Rush into Cataract Surgery

People shouldn't panic and rush into surgery when cataracts are first diagnosed. In most cases, cataracts are something people can live with for a long time after diagnosis, eye experts say.

That's because cataracts, which are a clouding of the lens inside the eye, usually start small and develop slowly. The exceptions are cataracts caused by an eye injury or disease or those present at birth, which are rare.

Most people with cataracts can benefit from an annual eye exam to check eye health and determine any need for a change in prescription lenses. Cataracts do cause changes in vision, but initially glasses and contact lenses can sometimes solve the problem, according to the National Eye Institute.

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Scoping Out Sunglasses

You may think we wear sunglasses for comfort and fashion. But here's another important reason to wear sunglasses: to protect the health of your eyes.

If you spend long hours in the sun without protection, you increase your exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, an invisible form of radiation from sunlight. Overexposure to UV-A and UV-B radiation causes damage to the skin and eyes. You can damage the surface of your eyes in the same way you can get sunburned -- with just one exposure to extremely bright sunlight reflected off sand, snow or water. Exposure to sunlight over years can lead to vision loss from cataracts or macular degeneration.

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