A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. For people who have cataracts, seeing through cloudy lenses is a bit like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window.
Signs and symptoms of cataracts include:
- Clouded, blurred or dim vision
- Increasing difficulty with vision at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Seeing “halos” around lights
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Double vision in a single eye
When to see a doctor
Make an appointment for an eye exam if you notice any changes in your vision. If you develop sudden vision changes, such as double vision or blurriness, see your doctor right away.
Most cataracts develop when aging or injury changes the tissue that makes up your eye’s lens.
Some cataracts are related to inherited genetic disorders that cause other health problems and increase your risk of cataracts. Cataracts can also be caused by other eye conditions, medical conditions such as diabetes, trauma or past eye surgery. Long-term use of steroid medications, too, can cause cataracts to develop.
- Increasing age
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Excessive exposure to sunlight
- Exposure to ionizing radiation, such as that used in X-rays and cancer radiation therapy
- Family history of cataracts
- High blood pressure
- Previous eye injury or inflammation
- Previous eye surgery
- Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
Tests and diagnosis
To determine whether you have a cataract, your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms, and perform an eye examination. Your doctor may conduct several tests, including:
- Asking you to read an eye chart (visual acuity test).
- Using a light and magnification to examine your eye (slit-lamp examination).
- Dilating your eyes (retinal examination).
Treatments and drugs
The only effective treatment for cataracts is surgery.
No studies have proved how to prevent cataracts or slow the progression of cataracts. However, doctors think several strategies may be helpful, including:
- Have regular eye examinations.
- Quit smoking.
- Reduce alcohol use. .
- Wear sunglasses. Ultraviolet light from the sun may contribute to the development of cataracts.
- Manage other health problems.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Choose a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Studies haven’t proved that antioxidants in pill form can prevent cataracts. However, a large population study recently showed that a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals was associated with a reduced risk of developing cataracts. Fruits and vegetables have many proven health benefits and are a safe way to increase the amount of minerals and vitamins in your diet.