Cataracts

A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye (the clear part of the eye that helps to focus light). Cataracts are very common as you get older. In fact, more than half of all Americans age 80 or older either have cataracts or have had surgery to get rid of cataracts.

In the U.S., there were 24.4 million cases in 2010, and that number is expected to double to about 50 million by 2050, in large part because of the aging population. More than half the cases of blindness worldwide are due to cataract.1

U.S. Hispanic individuals, particularly those of Mexican descent, are at a greater risk of having a visually impairing cataract than either African-American or white individuals, according to a study published in the Archives of Ophthalmology. Cataract is the leading cause of visual impairment in this population and is associated with lower levels of self-reported quality of life; however, a significant percentage of those who likely need cataract removal have never obtained surgery in the population, the authors noted.

normal-eye-and-lens-clouded-by-cataract-94639070 (1)

What are the symptoms of cataracts?2

cataract-disease-symptoms-inographic-eye-illness-blindness-159837965

Most cataracts are related to age — they happen because of normal changes in your eyes as you get older.   But you can get cataracts for other reasons — like after an eye injury or after surgery for another eye problem (like glaucoma).

You might not have any symptoms at first, when cataracts are mild. But as they grow, cataracts can cause changes in your vision. For example, you may notice that:

  • Your vision is cloudy or blurry
  • Colors look faded
  • You can’t see well at night
  • Lamps, sunlight, or headlights seem too bright
  • You see a halo around lights
  • You see double (this sometimes goes away as the cataract gets bigger)
  • You have to change the prescription for your glasses or contact lenses often

Talk with your eye care provider if you have any of these symptoms — they could also be signs of other eye problems.

An eye doctor can check for cataracts as part of a dilated eye exam. If you’re age 60 or older, get a dilated eye exam every 1 to 2 years. Click here to learn  what to expect from a dilated eye exam.

Your doctor might suggest surgery if your cataracts start getting in the way of everyday activities like reading, driving, or watching TV. During cataract surgery, the doctor removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a new, artificial lens (also called an intraocular lens, or IOL). This surgery is very safe, and 9 out of 10 people who get it can see better afterwards.

Click here to learn more about cataract surgery.

Resources for More Information:

Cataracts: What You Should Know, National Eye Institute -  English | Spanish

References:

  1. NEI charts a clearer future for cataract prevention and treatment, National Eye Institute, https://www.nei.nih.gov/about/news-and-events/news/nei-charts-clearer-future-cataract-prevention-and-treatment
  2. “Cataract prevalence higher among Hispanic population,” Ophthalmology Times, 3/15/06 https://www.ophthalmologytimes.com/view/cataract-prevalence-higher-among-hispanic-population
  3. “Cataracts,” National Eye Institute, Accessed 3/1/24 https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/cataracts