Understanding Cataracts

Cataracts occur as part of the normal aging process. Studies show that virtually everyone over age 65 has some cataract formation in their eyes. Cataracts can severely reduce your vision. At one time cataracts were a leading cause of blindness in the world. Today, fortunately they can be treated. Modern surgical techniques, intraocular lens implantation and "same day surgery" make cataract surgery safe, fast and effective.

Symptoms of Cataracts

  • Decreasing vision with age
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Seeing halos around bright lights
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Vision that worsens in sunlight
  • Difficulty distinguishing colors
  • Poor depth perception
  • Frequent prescription changes for glasses
  • Difficulty reading
Causes of Cataracts

  • Age
  • Eye trauma
  • Heredity
  • Diabetes
  • Some medications including long-term use of oral steroids
  • Ultraviolet radiation
  • Smoking
  • Glaucoma
  • Certain metabolic conditions

A cataract occurs when the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy. As the cataract develops, the cloudiness no longer allows the lens to properly focus light on the back of the eye. This unfocused light causes the vision to look blurry or hazy. Development of cataracts has been associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation. They are particularly prevalent in persons who spend a lot of time in the sun, such as fisherman. There is nothing you can do to prevent the formation of cataracts.

Treatment is indicated when decreased vision affects your everyday activities or hobbies. To determine how much your vision is decreased, your doctor should test you with a new test called contrast sensitivity. This test determines how much your everyday vision has been affected by the cataract.

Cataract surgery, in which the normal cloudy lens is removed, is now a very successful procedure. The most widely used technique is called phacoemulsification.


An evaluation for cataracts will typically last about one to two hours from the time you enter the exam room. You will be given eye drops that will dilate your pupils. These drops take about 15-20 minutes to work. They may make your eyes light sensitive and difficult to focus, especially up close, for several hours.

Your doctor will then shine several lights into your eyes, using both an eye microscope and ophthalmoscope. These instruments allow for a thorough examination of the various parts that make up both the outside and inside of your eyes.

Glare testing may also be performed to see if your cataracts are affecting your night vision.

At the completion of your visit, your doctor will review the results of your evaluation and discuss surgical options with you.