If your glasses or windows get smudged or fogged up, you can clean them easily.
But when cataracts do the same thing to the lens of your eye, fixing it isn't as easy as grabbing a cloth or some soap and water.
Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness in the United States, according to Prevent Blindness. They're most common in older adults but can occur in people of any age.
What a cataract does
Cataracts disrupt your vision by clouding the lens in your eye. The lens helps focus images on the retina at the back of your eye. From there the images go to your brain.
When the lens is clouded, your vision will become blurred or dimmed.
Other symptoms of cataracts include:
- Double vision.
- Ghost images.
- Trouble finding a comfortable amount of light to see and work by.
- The need for frequent changes in your eyeglass prescription.
When cataracts are small or away from the center of the lens, they may not hurt your vision at all.
Problems will start as the cataract grows or moves to the center of the lens. This could happen very quickly, over a period of years or not at all.
Why a cataract?
The cause of cataracts isn't clear. But everyone is at risk as they age.
Other factors that could raise your risk include:
- Too much ultraviolet radiation from sunlight.
- Certain diseases like diabetes.
- Your mother had German measles while pregnant with you.
- A genetic predisposition.
- Medications such as long-term steroid therapy.
- Eye injuries, eye diseases or inflammation of the eye.
The only proven way to treat cataracts is surgery. Cataract surgery improves vision about 90 percent of the time, according to the National Eye Institute. In most cases, your eye surgeon will recommend surgery only when the cataract starts to interfere with your daily activities.
During cataract surgery, the doctor will take out the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear plastic lens.
A person who's had cataract surgery could have normal or nearly normal vision after a couple of months.