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What are Cataracts?

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A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside of the eye.  The lens sits behind the iris (colored part of the eye) and the pupil.  The lens and the cornea (clear front part of the eye) is responsible for focusing light onto the retina to provide clear vision.  Cataracts are the leading cause of treatable blindness around the world.  According to the National Eye Institute (NEI) the number of people that will have cataracts in the US will grow to 38.7 million in 2030 and to 50.2 million in 2050 as the US population continues to age.


Aging is the primary risk factor for developing cataracts.  According to NEI, cataracts affect 5.2 percent of American ages 50-54.  This percentage increases with age.  Among Americans age 80 and older, more than 68 percent have cataracts.  Other risk factors include smoking, diabetes, exposure to UV-light and high-energy visible light (HEV) from the sun, and long-term use of medications (i.e. corticosteroids).


Symptoms of cataract include hazy or blurry vision, poor night vision, and glare.  Cataracts can also cause colors to appear faded and may cause “ghost” images or double vision in one or both eyes.  Cataracts worsen gradually over months or years,  but in some cases with certain medications, can worsen over weeks.  As a result, frequent changes in eyeglasses or contact lens prescription occur.  


The best way to decrease your risk from developing cataracts is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  This includes exercising frequently, watching your weight, and avoid or quit smoking.  Always wear high-quality sunglasses when outdoors to prevent UV and HEV rays from the sun from entering your eyes.  Studies are starting to show that blue light coming from tablets, phones, and computer screens can increase the risk of cataracts.  Wearing protective blue light blocking lenses is highly recommended to prevent cataract formation.  


Once a cataract causes significant visual impairment during normal daily activities, it needs to be removed.  Cataract surgery is the only proven treatment for cataracts.  Modern cataract surgery is very safe and effective and take less than 20 minutes with most people seeing a significant improvement within 24 hours.  

If you or someone you know is experiencing the symptoms of cataract, call our office today to schedule an eye examination at 925-743-1222.  We look forward to hearing from you!


Written by Dr. Michael Duong

Dr. Duong received his bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry at San Jose State University. He then attended Pennsylvania College of Optometry and received his Doctor of Optometry in 2009.
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