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What Is a Cataract: Taking a Closer Look at Common Eye Condition

According to recent reports from the medical sector, between 80 and 90 percent of Americans will develop cataracts at some point in their lives. They’re the world’s leading cause of blindness and the most common cause of vision loss in America based on information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though cataracts aren’t always preventable, they’re certainly treatable. Read on to learn more about cataracts as well as their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

What Are Cataracts?

Like many people, you may be wondering exactly what is a cataract. In short, it’s a clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataracts develop when fibers and proteins in the lens break down and stick together. They develop gradually. In the beginning, you may not even notice there’s a problem. Over time, though, cataracts grow thicker and spread, ultimately causing cloudy vision. If they’re not treated, they can eventually lead to blindness. 


Different types of cataracts can develop. Cortical cataracts start at the edges of the lenses and spread inward to the center. Those that develop at the center of the lens are called nuclear cataracts. Posterior subcapsular cataracts form at the back of the lens and spread from there. 

What Causes Cataracts?

As mentioned, cataracts form when proteins and fibers in the lenses start to disintegrate. This mainly happens as part of the natural aging process. That being said, other factors can contribute to the condition as well.

Frequent prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is a common risk factor. Smoking and alcohol consumption can also increase your chances of developing cataracts. Some medical conditions, like high blood pressure and diabetes, can raise your risks too. Eye injuries that affect the lens may speed up the development of cataracts. Additionally, some people are genetically predisposed to this condition.

What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts?

Blurry and cloudy vision are typical symptoms of cataracts. At the same time, they can cause difficulty seeing in low light and make colors appear duller than they should. Cataracts can also cause double vision and halos. If you need eyeglasses or contact lenses, you may notice that your prescription needs adjusting more frequently after cataracts begin to form. 

How Are Cataracts Treated?

Surgery is currently the only option for eliminating cataracts. In some cases, cataracts can be removed from the lens. For most people, though, the procedure is a bit more in-depth. It involves removing the affected lens and replacing it with an artificial one. Different types of intraocular lenses can be used in the procedure. Some of them also happen to correct nearsightedness and farsightedness. Lens replacement surgery has more than a 95 percent success rate, and there’s a very low risk of complications. 

Dealing With Cataracts

Most people develop cataracts at some point. They may start to develop in your 40s or 50s, but the risk further increases with age. Protecting your eyes against UV radiation and avoiding smoking and alcohol can reduce your risks of developing cataracts to an extent. Regular eye exams will allow your eye doctor to catch them early on. Although surgery is the only way to get rid of cataracts, the procedure is fast, safe, and effective.   

Bryan Cunningham is a writer who explores many different types of stories. He is skilled at creating interesting tales in various categories, making his work enjoyable for a wide range of readers.

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