Ophthalmology (Eye Diseases)
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. For people who have cataracts, seeing through cloudy lenses is a bit like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or see the expression on a friend's face.
Most cataracts develop slowly and don't disturb your eyesight early on. But with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision. At first, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help you deal with cataracts. But if impaired vision interferes with your usual activities, you might need cataract surgery. Fortunately, cataract surgery is generally a safe, effective procedure. Learn more about cataract surgery.
Signs and symptoms of cataracts include:
- Clouded, blurred or dim vision
- Increasing difficulty with vision at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Need for brighter light for reading and other activities
- Seeing "halos" around lights
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Double vision in a single eye
At first, the cloudiness in your vision caused by a cataract may affect only a small part of the eye's lens and you may be unaware of any vision loss. As the cataract grows larger, it clouds more of your lens and distorts the light passing through the lens. This may lead to more noticeable symptoms.
Causes of cataracts
Most cataracts develop when aging or injury changes the tissue that makes up your eye's lens. Some inherited genetic disorders that cause other health problems can increase your risk of cataracts. Cataracts also can be caused by other eye conditions, past eye surgery or medical conditions, such as diabetes, and long-term use of steroid medications.
Factors that increase your risk of cataracts include:
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Excessive exposure to sunlight
- High blood pressure
- Increasing age
- Previous eye injury or inflammation
- Previous eye surgery
- Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
No studies have proved how to prevent cataracts or slow the progression of cataracts. But doctors think several strategies may be helpful, including:
- Have regular eye examinations.
Eye examinations can help detect cataracts and other eye problems at their earliest stages. Ask your doctor how often you should have an eye examination.
- Quit smoking.
Ask your doctor for suggestions about how to stop smoking. Medications, counseling and other strategies are available to help you.
- Manage other health problems.
Follow your treatment plan if you have diabetes or other medical conditions that can increase your risk of cataracts.
- Choose a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Adding a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to your diet ensures that you're getting many vitamins and nutrients. Fruits and vegetables have many antioxidants, which help maintain the health of your eyes. Studies haven't proved that antioxidants in pill form can prevent cataracts. But, a large population study recently showed that a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals was associated with a reduced risk of developing cataracts. Fruits and vegetables have many proven health benefits and are a safe way to increase the amount of minerals and vitamins in your diet.
- Wear sunglasses.
Ultraviolet light from the sun may contribute to the development of cataracts. Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet B (UVB) rays when you're outdoors.
- Reduce alcohol use.
Excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of cataracts.