What Is a Cataract?
Behind the colored part of the eye is the lens. The eye’s lens is responsible for focusing light on the retina in the back of the eye. As we age, proteins within the lens inevitably begin to cluster together, causing the lens to cloud. This clouding is called a cataract. With cataracts, the lens cannot properly focus light, resulting in glare, blurry vision, and dull colors.
Symptoms of cataracts do not generally include pain, discomfort, redness, discharge, or sudden, alarming vision changes that would lead you to seek immediate help. The changes caused by cataracts generally develop so slowly that you won’t notice them until they are serious enough to affect your normal lifestyle. Symptoms commonly associated with cataracts include:
- Foggy, blurry, or dim vision
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Halos around lights
- Dull, washed-out colors
- Difficulty driving at night
- Difficulty seeing distant objects
- Trouble reading street signs or words on TV
- Needing more light to read
Only an eye doctor can determine if cataracts are the cause of your symptoms, but you can take our Cataract Quiz to find out if you have typical cataract symptoms, then call Hollingshead Eye Center for an evaluation.
NOTE: Even if you think you do not have cataracts, you should seek medical attention if you are having troublesome eye symptoms.
Cause of Cataracts
If you live long enough, you will almost certainly develop cataracts. In most cases, the cause of cataracts is the normal aging process. If you are age 65 or older, you probably have cataracts, but they may not have progressed to the point that they affect your vision.
Studies suggest accumulated exposure to ultraviolet light causes the natural lens to cloud. Certain lifestyle choices and relatively common health conditions, like diabetes, may also hasten cataract development.
Nutrition may play at least a limited role. Heavy salt consumption, for example, appears to increase the risk of significant cataract development. Some research suggests that antioxidant vitamins, like vitamin A (beta-carotene), vitamins C and E, and selenium, may slow cataract development. All of these are available in common multivitamin formulas. Beyond that, the use of nutritional supplements carries its own risks; you should consult your physician before adding them to your diet.