A cataract is a clouding of the crystalline lens inside the eye, preventing light from properly focusing on the retina in the back of the eye. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed outpatient surgery in the United States.
Most cataracts are related to age. It is estimated that approximately 20.5 million Americans (one of every six people age 40 and older) have cataracts. By the age of 80, more than half of all Americans will have a cataract. Although cataracts usually develop with age, they can also result from eye trauma, certain diseases like diabetes, genetic inheritance, smoking, certain medications, and frequent unprotected exposure to UVA light.
The clouding of the natural clear lens in the eye results in blurred vision near and far, decreased color contrast, increased glare and/or halos around lights at night, and frequent changes in glasses prescriptions. When a cataract is small, the cloudiness affects only a small part of the lens, and you may not notice any changes in your vision. Cataracts tend to grow slowly, so vision gradually gets worse over time.
No medications can reverse or prevent cataracts, but they can be removed through an outpatient procedure that takes only minutes. There are no needles, no stitches, and no patches involved. Your insurance will usually cover the cost of surgery. A cataract can be detected through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. You can protect yourself against vision loss by working with your eye doctor and maintaining annual exams.