Cataracts - What Are They?

Ever looked into someone’s eyes and they appear cloudy?  Maybe you don’t know a person with this...but have seen it in an older pet.  The eyeball looks like a marble with a cloudy sky in it.


What you are seeing are cataracts.  And yes, they do affect the person’s (or pet’s) ability to see.  Cataracts (that cloudy lens) is just that, it’s the inner lens of the eyes becoming foggy and harder to see through.


Why do they happen?

First reason is age.  The majority of cataracts occur as we get older.  As we age, the tissues in our body respond and break down or become altered.  


Sometimes a congenital (passed to you genetically from a parent) condition causes cataracts.   Some babies are born with cataracts.


Exposure to UV light can increase the risk of cataracts.


Sometimes the onset of cataracts happens due to an illness or injury. 

What causes them?

Well, again aging plays a large part.  There are other risk factors, too, that predispose a person to cataracts.  This list includes (but is not limited to):

  • Diabetes

  • Exposure to UV light 

  • Eye Injury

  • Alcohol use

  • Smoking

  • Prolonged use of corticosteroids

How do I know if I have them?

Your eye doctor checks for them at your regular visits.  With the use of equipment and technology at the office we can pick up on them before you (or others) start to notice.


What’s the big deal?

Untreated cataracts can lead to blindness.  But even before that point they can make life difficult.  Cataracts can be the reason behind many vision issues such as: glare, blurred vision, double vision, visual color differences, and difficulty seeing in low light or at night.



Can you do anything to prevent cataracts?  The short answer is, it depends.  Anything you do to your body has an effect (good and bad).  So by doing good things you can positively influence how your body responds.  The most basic things you can do are:

  • Eat healthy

  • Limit alcohol intake

  • Don’t smoke

  • Get regular check-ups with your health care providers

  • Take an interest in your overall health and do what you can to improve it

  • Wear sunglasses and protective eyewear to limit UV radiation


Sometimes, even with all these things above, genetics, disease or injury play a role.  Do what you can and enlist the help of your health care providers to help with the rest.


Can cataracts be fixed?

Yes!  There is a very common surgery that replaces the cloudy lens with a clear one.  Your optometrist is the best person to talk to about your options and what to expect.  As with all surgeries there are certain risks and there is a healing time of about eight weeks (though most people find their vision improves almost immediately and only have itchy/ light-sensitive eyes for a few days).


Have you booked your eye exam yet this year?  Did you know that in an eye exam Dr. Lawson can also see other health conditions when she checks your eyes?  High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer…  Your eyes are literal windows into what’s going on below the surface.  Want to know more?  Check out our blog on this subject HERE. 


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