A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye making it seem as if you are looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Cataracts can make it increasingly difficult to see details and do things like drive at night.
Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t disturb your eyesight early on. In fact, almost everyone will have some degree of cataracts. But with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision. You might experience blurry vision when watching TV, driving a car, viewing a computer screen, or reading a newspaper. Or see halos around lights when night driving. At first, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help you deal with cataracts.
Factors that increase your risk of cataracts include:
- Increasing age
- Excessive exposure to sunlight
- High blood pressure
- Previous eye injury or inflammation
- Previous eye surgery
- Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
Surgery for cataracts
It’s up to you and your ophthalmologist to decide when cataract surgery is right for you. For most people, there is no rush to remove cataracts because they usually don’t harm the eye. But cataracts can worsen faster in people with diabetes.
Should it be determined you need surgery, don’t worry. It’s a safe, 15-minute outpatient procedure done under local anesthesia and requiring a very small—or no—incision. First, the cloudy/damaged lens is removed or emulsified by laser. Then, your doctor will replace it with a new, clear artificial lens that remains a permanent part of your eye. You might feel a little discomfort for a few days. Within eight weeks, you should be fully healed.