A cataract is a cloudy or opaque area in the normally clear lens of the eye. Depending upon its size and location, it can interfere with normal vision. Most cataracts develop in people over age 55, but they occasionally occur in infants and young children. Usually cataracts develop in both eyes, but one may be worse than the other.
The lens is located inside the eye behind the iris, the colored part of the eye. Normally, the lens focuses light on the retina, which sends the image through the optic nerve to the brain.
However, if the lens is clouded by a cataract, light is scattered so the lens can no longer focus it properly, causing vision problems. The lens is made of mostly proteins and water. Clouding of the lens occurs due to changes in the proteins and lens fibers.
Cataracts generally form very slowly. Signs and symptoms of a cataract may include:
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Reduced intensity of colors
- Increased sensitivity to glare from lights, particularly when driving at night
- Increased difficulty seeing at night
- Change in the eye’s refractive error, or prescription
In age-related cataracts, changes in vision can be very gradual. Some people may not initially recognize the visual changes. However, as cataracts worsen, vision symptoms increase.
Wearing sunglasses and eating a diet high in anti-oxidants may reduce your risk of cataracts and keep your eyes healthy.