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What Are the Signs of Cataracts?

by Lauren Fitzpatrick
  • Overview

    What Are the Signs of Cataracts?
    What Are the Signs of Cataracts?
    Age-related cataracts can cause vision impairment in people as young as 40, but are typically seen in people aged 60 or older. Smoking, alcohol use and exposure to sunlight can increase the risk of cataracts. Doctors and researchers suggest that cataracts can be delayed by good nutrition, sun protection and early detection through eye exams.
  • Facts

    A cataract occurs when the lens of your eye is clouded. This affliction is usually connected to aging, and can diminish vision. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), by the time they are 80, over half of all Americans have a cataract or have had surgery to correct one. Cataracts are not contagious and cannot spread from one eye to the other.
  • Types

    The NEI classifies cataracts into five different types. The most common kind develops as a result of aging. The second type is the secondary cataract, which can appear after surgery related to other eye problems or as a result of another health problem. The third type is the traumatic cataract, which appears after an eye injury. The fourth type is the congenital cataract, which is seen in some babies at birth or in early childhood. The fifth type is the radiation cataract, which can be caused after being exposed to certain types of radiation.
  • Effects

    An age-related cataract is formed of clumps of protein, which cloud the lens and reduce the quality of images that reach the retina. This often causes blurry vision that may become worse over time, as the cataract grows. Cataracts also cause the eye lens to change from being clear to a yellow or brown color, which gives vision a brownish tint. This can gradually lead to slight color blindness.
  • Symptoms

    There are a number of symptoms that may indicate the presence of a cataract. These include cloudy or blurry vision, faded colors, over-bright lights that may appear to be surrounded by a halo, weak night vision, double vision, or fluctuating prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses. These symptoms can also mean that you have other eye problems. The NEI recommends contacting an eye doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms.
  • Treatment

    Cataracts only need to be treated when they affect vision and creates a problem with everyday activities. They may also need to be removed if they interfere with treatment of another existing eye problem. Cataracts are treated through two types of surgery: phacoemulsification (phaco) or extracapsular. Phaco surgery involves a small incision on the side of the cornea, followed by the insertion of a probe that breaks up the lens with ultrasound waves. Extracapsular surgery involves a long incision on the side of the cornea, so that the doctor can extract the entire cloudy core of the lens, and then remove the rest by suction.

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