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Cataracts - Topic Overview

opth_01.jpgA cataract camera.gif is a painless, cloudy area in the lens of the eye that blocks the passage of light to the retina. The retina is the nerve layer at the back of the eye. The nerve cells in the retina detect light entering the eye and send nerve signals to the brain about what the eye sees. Because cataracts block this light, they can cause vision problems.

Aging and exposure to sunlight can cause cataracts. Changes in your eyes are often a normal part of aging. But the changes do not always lead to cataracts.

Cataracts can also happen after an eye injury, as a result of eye disease, after you use certain medicines, or as a result of health problems such as diabetes.

Sometimes children are born with cataracts.

Cataracts can affect your vision.

  • You may have cloudy, fuzzy, or foggy vision.
  • You may see glare from lamps or the sun. You may have trouble driving at night because of glare from car headlights.
  • You may need frequent changes to your eyeglasses prescription.
  • You may get double vision in one eye.
  • Your near vision may improve for a short time if you get a cataract. This temporary improvement is called second sight.

The vision loss from a cataract often happens slowly and may never become severe. Sometimes cataracts do not cause any vision problems.

Your doctor can find out if you have cataracts by doing a physical exam and by asking questions about your symptoms and past health. You may need tests to make sure you have a cataract or to rule out other conditions that may be causing vision problems.

Surgery can remove cataracts. For most adults, surgery is only needed when vision loss caused by a cataract affects their quality of life.

There are a number of things you can do that may help you manage your vision problems. Many people get along very well with the help of eyeglasses, contacts, or other vision aids. Keep your eyeglasses or contact lens prescription up to date. Also make sure you have plenty of lighting in your home. You may be able to avoid or delay surgery.

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