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​Cataracts: You Don't Have to Be in the Dark

Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness among older adults.


​​More than half of all Americans age 65 and older have cataracts and more than one million people have cataract surgery in the United States each year.​​

As we age, so do our eyes. Many eye disorders like cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration that affect older people can be diagnosed and treated. The key is knowing the symptoms and getting early treatment.

Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness among older adults. Ninety-five percent of cataracts are age-related. More than half of all Americans age 65 and older have cataracts and more than one million people have cataract surgery in the United States each year.

Although cataracts are a normal part of aging, you don't need to have your daily activities hindered by visual impairment, says Nancy Webb, M.D.​, Chief of Ophthalmology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. It is recommended that cataract surgery, which involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a clear plastic lens, be performed when a patient has difficulty performing his or her daily activities. In most cases, visual loss is reversible and vision is restored, thanks to newer, safer cataract surgery techniques that help restore a patients quality of life.​

Looking for the Signs

A cataract is painless and develops gradually. A cataract blocks the passage of light into the eye. Much like a camera, light enters through the lens of the eye, which helps focus images onto the retina in the back of the eye to send an image in the brain. With a cataract, protein buildup causes the lens to become cloudy, preventing light from passing through the normally clear lens.

Some signs of cataracts include:

  • Blurry vision, with no pain
  • Glare, or sensitivity to light
  • Many eyeglass prescription changes
  • Double vision in one eye
  • The need to read with brighter light
  • Poor night vision
  • Dull or yellowed eye color

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth...

What can you do to prevent cataracts? Dr. Webb says even though it is unavoidable, you can take steps to help slow down the progression of cataracts and prevent vision loss.

Since cataracts come with age, you cant avoid them. Routine eye exams are the best way to detect cataracts so you can seek immediate treatment if possible, says Dr. Webb. People 65 years of age and older should get a thorough eye exam every one or two years, even if you dont have any vision problems. Your eye care provider should dilate your eyes as part of the exam.

Factors that may trigger cataracts include diabetes, injury or trauma to the eye and long-term exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun. Some people are born with cataracts or develop them at a young age. Other triggering factors include:

  • Inflammation of the eyes
  • Family history of cataracts
  • Medications, such as steroids
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Long-term nearsig​htedness (myopia) or other eye diseases


It is unclear why cataracts form in our eyes. Everyone has a risk of developing cataracts later in life since its age-related, says Dr. Webb. That is why it is so important to have your eyes examined regularly by an eye care specialist who can detect signs of cataracts.

If vision loss caused by cataracts begins to interfere with your lifestyle, Dr. Webb recommends you consider cataract removal. You, your family and your eye care provider can decide together if surgery is right for you.​​​

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Nancy Webb, MD

​My practice philosophy is ‘The Golden Rule’ of patient care. I try to treat each patient in the manner that I would want my family members or myself to be treated.