A cataract develops when your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy. The lens is located behind the iris ( the colored part of the eye). Proteins in your lens break down and cause things to look blurry, hazy or less colorful. For people who have cataracts, seeing through a cloudy lens feels a bit like looking through a foggy or frosted window.
Aging is the most common cause. The effects of aging, combined with lifelong sun exposure can cause cataracts to develop usually beginning around age 40. The cloudiness progresses slowly, not usually affecting vision until after the age of 60.
Other contributing factors to the development of cataracts are smoking, eye trauma, chronic diabetes, radiation treatments, and corticosteroid medications. Cataracts can also be congenital but those cases are rare.
Cataracts often develop slowly and gradually. At first they may only have a minor effect on your vision, causing slightly blurred vision or a hazy effect. However as the cataract progresses patients can develop more significant symptoms. These include: cloudy, blurry vision; double vision; decreased night vision and seeing halos around lights; inability to see bright color; increased sensitivity to glare; and distortion, which can be akin to looking at the world through a dirty window.
The only treatment for cataracts is to surgically remove the cataract and replace it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure and is one of the most frequently performed and safest surgical procedures in the Unites States, with over a 99% success rate.
If you choose to live with your cataract, your vision will continue to degrade. Soon you won’t be able to drive at night. Lights will have halos, and color vibrancy will fade. Your overall vision will become more and more blurry. The end of the line is blindness in the eye with the cataract.