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Cataracts: A Normal Part of Aging

By Heo-Jeng Ooi, M.D.

If you are over 60 years old and you find your vision getting a little blurry that even glasses could not help, changes are you may be developing cataracts in your eyes. A cataract, by definition, is a cloudy lens in the eye that may or may not affect vision significantly. Your eye works like a camera, with a clear lens that focuses images on the retina at the back of your eye. When the lens becomes cloudy and discolored, losing its transparence, it is called a cataract. However, just because you have cataracts, it does not necessarily mean your cataracts are visually significant (meaning you think you can see clearly and you report no symptoms whatsoever in life). Symptoms that may suggest you are developing visually significant cataract include difficulty to see street signs, to watch TV, or to read, despite wearing glasses or contact lenses. Others may also include difficulty to drive due to glares.
Cataract formation is a normal part of aging. While cataracts may develop in both eyes at the same time, they do not spread from one to the other. They are not caused and do not grow worse through overuse of the eyes, but, as a rule, develop gradually over many years. According to National Eye Institute, by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract interfering with their vision or have had cataract removal surgery. The term “age-related” is perhaps a little misleading. You do not have to be a senior citizen to develop cataract. In fact, you could have developed "aged-related" cataract in your 50s, or even younger like in 40s. These "younger" patients do tend to have systemic diseases like Diabetes Mellitus that could hasten the progression the onset of cataracts.
If you have cataracts interfering with your vision, surgery is the only effective way to improve your vision when the glasses no longer help. Cataract removal surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States. It is also one of the safest and most effective types of surgery. In general, about 95% or above of the people who have had cataract removed experience improved vision afterward.
If you have cataracts in both eyes that require surgery, the surgery usually will be performed on each eye at separate times. Talk with your local Ophthalmologist and learn about the risks, benefits, alternatives, and expected results of cataract surgery.
Dr. Heo-Jeng Ooi is Associate Ophthalmologist and Surgeon at the Cataract and Laser Institute of PA. For more information, visit www.cliofpa.com.

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