A cataract is the progressive cloudiness of the natural crystalline lens within the eye. The crystalline lens accounts for approximately one third of the eye’s focusing power and primarily consists of water and proteins. Over time, the proteins within the crystalline lens begin to clump together and cloud the lens. This clouding interferes with light rays passing through the eye to the retina, resulting in blurred vision. Some people perceive this clouding as a film over the eye or as if they are looking through wax paper; others notice glare and halos around lights. Fortunately, cataract surgery has the potential to improve the visual acuity by removing the clouded crystalline lens and replacing it with a clear, synthetic intraocular lens (IOL).
Symptoms of cataracts include, but are not limited to:
- Gradual deterioration of vision over time
- Blurred vision or double vision
- Starbursts and halos around bright lights
- Trouble seeing at night
- Vision that deteriorates in the sunlight
- Difficulty perceiving colors
- Decreased depth perception
- Frequent changes in glasses prescription
- Trouble reading
Usually patients are the first to perceive the presence of a cataract with symptoms of blurred vision. Eye care professionals, such as optometrists and ophthalmologists, are able to diagnose cataracts when conducting a comprehensive dilated eye exam. During the comprehensive evaluation the eye doctor is able to rule out other ocular diseases and disorders that can contribute to a decrease in vision. Once the doctor has determined the cataract to be the primary cause for the blurred vision, it is very likely that cataract surgery can improve the vision. For patients with other concurrent ocular conditions such as mild, dry macular degeneration, glaucoma or “lazy eye” (amblyopia), some level of vision may be improved with cataract surgery.