According to the National Eye Institute, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery by age 80. However, you don't have to be retired to develop a cataract. People can get age-related cataracts in their 40s and 50s, but it is after age 60 that most cataracts start causing problems with a person's vision.
A cataract is when the lens within the eye starts becoming cloudy. This can gradually become worse, affecting your overall vision in one or both eyes.
The lens is what focuses the light or image that's in front of you onto the retina. Once light gets to the retina, it is changed into nerve signals that are then sent to your brain, allowing you to see. The lens is made up of specifically arranged water and protein. A cataract is formed when some of the protein starts clumping together, which clouds a small area of the lens. Over time, that area may grow larger, affecting your eyesight and making it hard to see.
There are several factors that researchers believe may cause cataracts - such as smoking and diabetes. However, the common denominator among most cases of cataracts is age, which leads researchers to believe that the protein in the lens may change from the wear and tear it takes over the years.
Most cataracts develop slowly and don't affect your eyesight at first, so it may be difficult to tell you are developing one. The following are symptoms of a cataract, but may also be signs of other eye problems. It is always recommended to see your eye care professional if you feel your eyesight has changed or you are having issues seeing.
Possible Signs of a Cataract:
- Clouded or blurred vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Seeing halos or glares around lights
- Colors seem to be faded
- Sensitive to light
- Double vision in one eye
- Frequently needing a new prescription
You should make an appointment for an eye exam whenever you notice any changes in your vision. Otherwise, it is a good idea to regularly visit your eye doctor so they can track any changes or issues that might come about without you even noticing. If it is found that you do have a cataract, your doctor will recommend the best option for you. The early symptoms of cataracts may be improved with new glasses, better lighting, or anti-glare sunglasses. If the cataract is affecting your everyday activities, your doctor may recommend surgery. If you need addititonal time to consider proceeding with surgery, it will most likely not affect your recovery, since cataracts don't usually harm the eye.