What Are Cataracts?

Dr. Catherine Makin Ophthalmologist New Braunfels, TX

Dr. Catherine Makin is an ophthalmologist practicing in New Braunfels and Kyle, TX. She specializes in premium cataract refractive surgery, eye diseases, and vision care. Cataracts are the number one cause of treatable blindness. Dr. Makin is able to use state of the art technology of lasers and premium lens to replace... more

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens. When we are born it is clear, but with time it becomes more and more opaque or cloudy. When we look at something, light rays travel into our eye through the pupil and are focused through the lens onto the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. The lens must be clear in order to focus light properly onto the retina. If the lens has become cloudy, this is called a cataract. 

As a cataract slowly begins to develop, you may not notice any changes in your vision at first. But as the cataract progresses, you may begin to find that it interferes with your daily activities. Possible symptoms include:

  • Painless cloudy, blurry or dim vision
  • More difficulty seeing at night or in low light
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Faded or yellowed colors
  • The need for brighter light for reading and other activities
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
  • Double vision within one eye

Cataracts are one of the most common causes of vision loss as we age.  Since most cataracts are part of the normal aging process, they cannot be reversed. There are no medications or eye drops that will make cataracts go away—surgery is the only treatment. But a cataract may not need to be removed right away if your lifestyle isn't significantly affected. In some cases, changing your eyeglass prescription may help to improve your vision.

When a cataract causes bothersome vision problems that interfere with your daily activities, it may be time to consider surgery to remove the cataract. With cataract surgery, your eye's cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens implant (called an intraocular lens or IOL). The decision to proceed with cataract surgery is one that is made between you and your eye doctor. 

The only way to know for certain if you have cataracts is to have a dilated eye exam (where your pupil is widened with eye drops). Looking at your eye’s lens through a microscope during a dilated exam catches early signs of cataract development. Also, a complete eye examination will rule out any other condition that may be causing blurred vision or eye problems.