Cataracts - What Happens

Cataracts may stay small and you may not notice them. They often do not seriously affect vision. And many cataracts do not need to be removed.

Some cataracts grow larger or denser over time, causing severe vision changes.

  • Severe cataracts can cause loss of independence for older adults as decreased vision may affect driving, working, reading, or hobbies.
  • While cataracts can cause blindness, this is rare. Surgery is usually done before a cataract progresses far enough to cause blindness.
  • A rare type of cataract can lead to glaucoma.

As a cataract progresses, more of the lens becomes cloudy. When the entire lens is white, the cataract is called a "ripe" or "mature" cataract and causes severe vision problems. Delaying surgery until cataracts are ripe or mature is neither recommended nor needed.

Cataracts in children are rare but serious. If a cataract prevents light from entering a child's eye and stimulating the retina, the area of the brain used for sight does not develop properly. Usually the child won't see well with that eye (amblyopia), even if the cataract is later removed.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
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