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What exactly is a cataract?

You’ve heard about them from your friends, no doubt. You probably know that it is a cause of blurry vision and that sometimes you need surgery for this condition. What causes them? Can you prevent them? When should you get surgery?

Almost everyone will develop cataracts at some time in their life. A cataract is a progressive condition characterized by cloudiness and hardening of the lens inside of the eye. Your lens is part of the focusing mechanism of the eye similar to the lens of a camera. If the lens inside of the camera is frosted then it won’t take good pictures. This is similar to your vision when you are looking through a cataract.

Most people develop cataracts as they age. Waste products from your body collect in the eye over time. This makes the lens yellow or brown in color. As the lens ages, layers are added to it similar to the layers of an onion. As it gets thicker the layers become more compact and harder. This harder, thicker lens is less compliant and doesn’t change shape as well to focus on objects in front of you.

There are other causes of cataracts. Some medications can cause them but usually the reason for taking the medication takes precedence and they should not be avoided solely to prevent cataracts. Trauma can cause cataracts as the concussive force can damage the lens and cause it to become cloudy. Smoking can cause cataracts amongst many other health problems. Some health conditions like diabetes, metabolic disorders, and inflammatory disorders can contribute to cataract formation. In rare circumstances, children can be born with cataracts which must be identified early to prevent permanent vision loss as the child develops.

There are no medicinal treatments for cataracts. You might be able to find herbal drops in some stores that claim to prevent or even treat cataracts. There is no scientific evidence to support this claim of any medication. The only treatment for cataracts is surgery.

The decision to surgically remove a cataract should be made with an eye surgeon that you trust. When you are bothered by your vision despite your best vision correction with glasses or contact lenses then it is time to consider surgery. If you have difficulty with glare and halos, reading fine print, driving at night, or any other vision related task then you should consult with an eye professional to discuss your options for treatment. If you would like to speak with one of our eye care professionals, call for an appointment or click here.

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