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What is a cataract?

operating on the eye

Cataract surgery is performed with an operating microscope and microsurgical instruments

Light enters the eye through the cornea, then the pupil (black circle in the middle of the colored part of the eye) and is focused by the lens before it hits the retina. As we age, the lens becomes cloudier, and that clouding of the lens is called a cataract.

Ancient Rome

The word cataract is derived from the Latin word ‘cataracta,’ which means waterfall. It is thought that the white appearance of water cascading down a waterfall is what a dense cataract looks like through the pupil. Fortunately in the United States, most cataracts are removed with phacoemulsification before they get to this late white stage and cause severe vision loss. In other parts of the world, advanced cataracts are the leading cause of blindness and there are many organizations that are working to eradicate them.

When do they start to form?

A slight yellowing of the lens usually starts around age 40. After that, the cataract slowly gets worse until the point were vision becomes blurry (even with glasses on) and glare from the sun or headlights can become debilitating. Systemic diseases such as diabetes and the use of steroids can make cataracts worsen at a greater pace.

The good news

If you live in the United States, once your cataract becomes visually significant, a skilled surgeon can usually remove it in about 10 minutes and replace it with a clear plastic lens (called an intraocular lens, or IOL). Your refractive error can also be corrected by the IOL, so that glasses will not be needed for clear vision after surgery. Complication rates are low for cataract surgery and the benefits to one’s quality of life are great. It’s no wonder why cataract surgery is the most often performed surgery of any kind in the United States every year.


4 comments on “What is a cataract?

  1. Eye Cataracts
    October 5, 2012

    Thank you for sharing the information about cataract that what is this and how the skilled surgeon can remove cataract.

  2. Jual S Lutena Jakarta
    February 7, 2015

    Wow! At last I got a blog from where I can in fact get helpful information regarding my study and knowledge.

  3. larrynweaver2017
    June 6, 2017

    Thanks for this info on cataracts. It’s good to know to watch out for them around 40. My grandpa’s is having difficulty doing household task, so we think it might be his vision. My family wants to have him checked for cataracts.

  4. EyeSoothe
    November 25, 2017

    This is a a great revolution on eye health.Thanks for sharing this. This is some great information, and I appreciate your points that cataract surgery and the benefits to one’s quality of life are great.

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This entry was posted on September 29, 2012 by in The Eye and tagged , , , , , , , , , .

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