What the heck is a cataract?

This is the most popular concern from my patients: what is a cataract?

I always say, “If we live long enough, we will all get cataracts. We should all be so lucky!” But here’s some more information to consider:

What is a cataract?
Basically, a cataract is a cloudiness or yellowing of the natural lens inside of our eyes.

What causes a cataract?
The most common cataract happens from years and years of sun or UV exposure. The lens tries to act as a shield to absorb as much UV light as it can to block it from hitting our retina or back surface of our eyes; the problem is, it becomes cloudy and yellow by doing this. We can get to the point where even the best prescription glasses or contact lenses cannot get us to see 20/20 anymore.

What is the treatment?
When our vision is decreased enough from cataracts, we can choose to have cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery in all of North America and has very low risks but every surgery has some risks. Typically, patients are not put under for the surgery and they do not need to stay overnight in a hospital.

Cataract surgery entails taking out the cloudy and yellowed lens inside our eye, and replacing it with a clear implant lens. Often, the surgeon will choose a lens close to your spectacle prescription minimizing your need for distance correction after the surgery. You can also upgrade your implant lens to a multifocal implant lens to reduce your dependence on glasses for both distance and reading or near work.

I don’t want surgery! How can I prevent cataracts?
Prevention is key! We need to protect our eyes from harmful UV light by wearing good quality sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection. This will slow down our cataracts and help prevent macular degeneration and even little lumps and bumps on the white of our eyes from too much sun or wind damage.

As always, if you notice any changes in your vision, see your optometrist to rule out other vision issues and eye diseases. Not all decreased vision can be blamed on cataracts.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Eliza Snow

THE EYESITE: Ease computer eye strain
THE EYESITE: Yoga and your eyes
THE EYESITE: A feast for the eyes… literally

THE EYESITE, is brought to you by ZoomerMedia Ltd. and IRIS, Canada’s largest eyecare provider and is dedicated to improving eyecare for all Canadians. From eye health and nutrition to vision technology, EYESITE is your source for reliable, informative and up–to-date information.