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Understanding Cataracts Understanding Cataracts
A cataract is a clouding that forms when there is a build up of protein in the lens of the eye. It is... Understanding Cataracts

by Kimberly Allen R.N.

A cataract is a clouding that forms when there is a build up of protein in the lens of the eye.  It is estimated that over 22 million Americans 40 years and older are currently suffering some degree of vision loss due to cataracts.  Cataracts progresses slowly as the proteins build on the lens causing vision loss.  The vision loss varies in severity from mild near-sightedness to blindness if left untreated.

The vision loss with cataracts progresses slowly, so slowly in fact that you may not notice that it’s your vision that is the problem.  My uncle complained to my aunt every night that he didn’t understand how she could watch the TV, because the picture was terrible.  My aunt didn’t see a problem with the picture but my uncle insisted.  So they bought a new TV, that night he complained of the same problem with the picture.  That did it, my aunt made an appointment with the eye Dr for my uncle and sure enough he had cataracts.

There are 4 different classifications of cataracts with different types with in each classification.  they are classified according to the cause.

1.  Age related cataracts are just that, they develop because of aging.
2. Congenital cataracts affects babies where the mother had an infection, injury or some other factor that leads to poor development before they were born.  They can also develop in early childhood.
3. Secondary cataracts are a result of other medical conditions such as diabetes, certain medications like corticosteroids, exposure to UV light or radiation or other toxic substances.
4. Traumatic cataracts result after an injury to the eye.

Cataracts can develop in one or both eyes, especially with age related types of cataracts.  In age related cataracts they eventually affect both eyes but, one at a time, rarely do both eyes have the same degree of cataract at the same time.  Cataracts begin small, producing almost no symptoms.  As it grows and thickens your vision may start to get blurry or lights may seem to be too bright or glaring especially at night.  the symptoms of cataracts depends on the type of cataract you have.  For example, in age related cataracts there can actually be an improvement in your near vision, that’s only temporary, called “second sight” where as with a secondary cataract you may not have any symptoms until it’s well developed.  the best approach is to see an eye doctor for an exam if you think you have a cataract.

Cataract treatment in the early stages usually involves a change in your prescription lenses or if you didn’t need prescription lenses before you may now.  Many people believe all the doctor has to do is remove the cataract, it’s just not that simple.  A cataract has to “ripen” or reach a certain thickness before you’re a candidate for surgery.  I have had patients that got very angry when the eye doctor said that their cataracts were not ready for surgery yet.  The doctor will monitor the cataract to determine when it’s ready to be removed.  Once the  cataract has “ripened” it can be removed.  Surgery for cataracts is done on an outpatient basis and has been successful in restoring vision.  Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgery in the US.    The success rate for cataract surgery is incredibly more than 9 out of 10 people that have the surgery have improved vision.

Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at