What Exactly Are Cataracts?

Cataracts are one of the leading causes of vision loss in people over the age of 45. A cataract is a clouding of the lens in your eye, which is normally transparent. The lens focuses light onto the retina at the back of your eye, where it is converted to nerve signals that are passed to the brain, allowing you to see. When your lens becomes cloudy, the images projected onto your retina become blurry and unfocused and therefore the signal to the brain is also unclear.

You can compare this to looking through a dirty or cloudy window. If the window is not clear, you can’t see well. Usually, cataracts develop slowly over time, so your vision gradually worsens. While the majority of cataracts are a result of the aging process, there are also congenital cataracts that are present at birth, secondary cataracts that result from eye surgery or diseases such as diabetes, and traumatic cataracts that can happen at any age from an injury to the eye.

While you may be able to live with mild cataracts, moderate and severe cataracts are treated with surgery. The procedure involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens (IOL) implant.

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Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is the removal of the natural lens of the eye (also called "crystalline lens") that has developed an opacification, which is referred to as a cataract. Metabolic changes of the crystalline lens fibers over time lead to the development of the cataract and loss of transparency, causing impairment or loss of vision.

Following surgical removal of the natural cloudy lens, an artificial intraocular lens implant is inserted (eye surgeons say that the lens is "implanted") to restore clear vision. Cataract surgery is generally performed by an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) in a surgical center or hospital. Cataract surgery is one of the most successful surgeries in North America and has a low complication rate.


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