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What is a cataract?

A cataract is an eye disease in which the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy or opaque, causing a decrease in vision. The natural lens of the eye focuses light onto the back of the eye (the retina) so images appear clear and without distortion. The clouding of this lens during cataract formation causes blurring and distortion of vision. Cataracts are usually a very gradual process of normal aging but can occasionally develop rapidly. They commonly affect both eyes, but it is not uncommon for a cataract in one eye to advance more rapidly. Cataracts are very common, especially among the elderly.

Precisely why cataracts occur is unknown. However, most cataracts appear to be caused by changes in the protein structures within the natural lens that occur over many years and cause the lens to become cloudy. Rarely, cataracts can present at birth or in early childhood as a result of hereditary enzyme defects, other genetic disease, or systemic congenital infections. Severe trauma to the eye, eye surgery, or intraocular inflammation can also cause cataracts to develop more rapidly. Other factors that may lead to development of cataracts at an earlier age include excessive ultraviolet light exposure, exposure to ionizing radiation, diabetes, smoking, or the use of certain medications, such as oral, topical, or inhaled steroids. Other medications that may be associated with cataracts include the long-term use of statins and phenothiazines.

The total number of people who have cataracts is estimated to increase to 30 million by 2020. When people develop cataracts, they begin to have difficulty doing activities they enjoy. Some of the most common complaints include difficulty driving at night, reading, watching television or movies, and recognizing faces. These are all activities for which clear vision is essential.

Return to Cataract Surgery

See what others are saying

Comment from: Lalinezz, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: September 27

I had cataract surgery on both eyes two weeks apart in October 2016. The procedures went well and my vision is excellent in both eyes. I had no complications, but have developed 'flashing' in both eyes, especially the left. I have been back to the surgeon twice, my eye doctor twice, a different eye doctor once and recently an ocular neurologist. All agree my eyes look great, IOLs (intraocular lenses) look wonderful, and optic nerve healthy. The ocular neurologist thought dry eyes might be hindering the sealing around the IOL, so blocked my tear ducts and said to use lubricant eye drops. So far, no improvements. I've started wearing sunglasses indoors and outdoors which does help the flashing. I've had three episodes of ocular migraines, which involved a blurry, spinning effect in both eyes, I could still see, but barely, no pain.

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Comment from: James , 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: September 20

I am three months post-surgery for cataract and wish I had not had the surgery. I had toric lenses in both eyes due to astigmatism. I have decent distant vision only, with no mid or close. I require reading glasses to even turn the stove on or see TV remote. I can't read the dashboard of the car. I am extreme sensitivity to light, especially fluorescents. I barely passed eye exam for driver's license which makes me believe my eyes are not what the doctor tells me. My eyes are itchy and red all the time. I find looking at the manufacturer's website an information packet I should have been given; would have changed my mind about the surgery if seen before. I am miserable.

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Comment from: Michelle, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: August 09

I had cataract surgery in April (over 3 months ago) and floaters removed. The day after surgery I couldn't see anything and was completely blind in that eye. The surgeon told me that it was because I had swelling on the cornea because I have Fuchs uveitis. He put me on cortisone drops. A few weeks after the surgery they discovered that the lens was not focusing in the correct place and did another surgery to replace the lens. I still could not see anything and he continued with the cortisone drops. Then he said the swelling had gone down but I still have a blind patch in the middle of my eye which is not improving at all. So effectively I can't see out of that eye at all. I don't know if this will ever improve or I need to go to a different surgeon.

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