What are Cataracts?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens that negatively affects the clarity of vision.

Cataracts generally occur in both eyes, but not always evenly. As the tissues in the lens break down and clump together, the lens becomes cloudy or opaque and vision becomes blurry.

Some cataracts are congenital, caused by injury, or complicated by disease or medication, but most are a normal sign of aging and due to exposure to the sun’s UV light. Anyone with these risk factors should be checked for cataracts:

  • Increasing age
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Poor lifestyle habits such as smoking, obesity, or excessive drinking
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medicine
  • Diabetes
  • Previous injury, inflammation, or surgery of the eye

When being tested for cataracts, your doctor may conduct several evaluations, including:

  • Visual acuity test – an eye chart to measure how well you can read a series of letters, one eye at a time
  • Slit-lamp exam – a microscope that uses a narrow line of light to illuminate and allows your eye doctor to see parts of your eye in small sections and detect abnormalities
  • Retinal exam – when your doctor dilates your eyes and uses a slit lamp or ophthalmoscope to examine your lens for signs of a cataract


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