A cataract is best be described a clouding of the crystalline lens of the eye that varies from slight to complete opacity. The cloudiness obstructs the passage of light and causes vision impairment. Cataracts are very common in people over age 40 and it is one of the principal cause of blindness around the globe. A cataract can form in either or both eyes, but it cannot spread from one eye to the other.

It’s not entirely clear why the eye’s lens changes as we age to form cataracts, but researchers have identified that age-related cataracts can affect your vision in two ways. As we age, some of the protein that makes up the lens clumps together and causes a cloud to form in areas of the lens. This clouding reduces the amount of light that reaches the retina. Sometimes the clouding can be severe enough to cause blurred vision. When a cataract is small, it can be hard to detect. Cataracts tend to grow slowly so visual impairment gets worse gradually. Fortunately, the early stages of a cataract can be detected early through regular exams.

A cataract also affects vision as we age by a slow change of colour to the lens from clear to a yellowish or brownish tint. At the early stages the tinting will be light, but might make it more difficult to read or see things in a dimmer light. The gradual change in colour does not affect the sharpness of an image, but it could affect your ability to read colour like purples or blues. Symptoms of a cataract include cloudy or blurry vision, fading colours, glare from lights or lamps, poor night vision, double vision and frequent glass prescription changes.

The symptoms of early cataracts can usually be improved with new glasses, strong bifocals, magnification, brighter lighting, anti-glare sunglasses or other visual aids. If they have progressed far enough or these measures stop working, then surgery is the only effective treatment left. A cataract needs to be removed only when vision loss interferes with your ever day activities such as driving, reading or watching TV. Surgery for cataracts is very successful in restoring vision. You and your eye care specialist can make this decision together by understanding the benefits and risks of surgery.

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