What are Cataracts? banner

What are Cataracts?

A cataract is any clouding or opaque area in the eye’s natural lens, which is normally crystal clear. It is not a tumor or skin-growth over the eye. Most cataracts progress and eventually hamper vision, but merely having a cataract does not necessarily mean you have to have cataract surgery.

Cause of Cataracts

Most cataracts develop as part of the aging process, from a change in the chemical composition of the lens. They don’t usually become a problem until your 60s or 70s. If we live long enough, everyone will eventually develop cataracts. Several major studies have shown that prolonged exposure to sunlight, especially the ultraviolet-B rays (UV-B), over many years can play a role in hastening the development of a cataract.

Cataracts can also occur at a younger age from any number of causes:

  • Eye injury (even many years earlier)
  • Certain eye diseases (such as uveitis)
  • Medical conditions (such as diabetes)
  • Heredity
  • Birth defect
  • Medications (such as steroids – even if just used in an inhaler)
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking

Cataracts are not caused or made worse by using or “overusing” the eyes.

Symptoms of Cataracts

In the early stages, a cataract may not disturb your vision or cause any symptoms at all. You might not even notice an advanced or dense cataract if your other eye sees well. (You might only become aware of a problem if you happen to cover the “good” eye). The symptoms may occur only in dim light or when you face bright oncoming car headlights, making night driving difficult.

Others may experience certain symptoms, such as:

  • Gradual blurring or dimming of distance or near vision
  • “Halo” or haze around lights, especially at night
  • Double or multiple vision, especially noticeable around traffic lights

In the early stages, using a bright reading light may make vision better (but a bright light might also make vision worse). Eye pain, headaches and eye irritation are not symptoms of cataract. Unless a cataract is very dense and white, it will not be visible to the naked eye of a casual observer.

Progression of Cataracts

As a rule, no one knows why some cataracts develop rapidly and others slowly. Generally, the clouding of the lens is a slow, gradual process that takes a long time, sometimes decades. On the other hand, there are some conditions, such as poorly controlled diabetes, in which a cataract can progress rapidly.

Recent studies show that antioxidant vitamin supplements, especially vitamins C and E, may help slow the process or even reduce the risk of developing cataracts. But other so-called “treatments,” such as medication or exercise, do not help at all. And once cataracts have formed, they cannot be reversed.

If you are experiencing changes in your vision in Corpus Christi, TX, contact us to schedule an eye exam today to determine if cataracts are silently stealing your vision.

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