If you are over 55 and your vision has become blurry or cloudy, you may have cataracts. While cataracts are a common condition in older adults, they can occur at different times in each of our lives. The condition is often discussed, but many people are a bit unclear about exactly what cataracts are.

What are Cataracts?

Inside of our eyes are natural lenses that bend light rays in order to help us see. The lens in our eye is clear. It is there to focus light on the retina which is the light-sensitive tissue on the back of our eye. When our lenses are clear, the light can pass through easily and be refracted into nerve signals that are then sent to our brain, so we can see.

As the lens becomes cloudy, the light cannot pass through as easily, so the retina does not receive a sharp image. A cataract is the progressive clouding of the lens in either one or both eyes which over an extended period of time can cause blindness.

Causes of Cataracts

Now that you have a better understanding of exactly what cataracts are, it is important to understand what causes cataracts. Remember that the lens of the eye helps to focus light so that an image can be recorded on the retina and sent to the brain.

The lens is made up of mainly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a way that it keeps the lens clear and allows light to pass through. As we get older, the protein can begin to bunch together which made a cloudy spot on the lens. The more protein that bunches up, the cloudier the lens becomes. Cataracts are simply bundles of proteins that cause cloudiness in the lens of the eye.

Cataracts and Aging

More than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery by age 80. While most cataracts are associated with aging, you do not have to be a senior citizen for a cataract to form. Some people develop age related cataracts during middle age, but these are generally small and rarely affect vision. After age 60, the protein clumps become larger and obstruct more of the lens thus leading to vision problems. While cataracts are very common in older adults, it is not the only cause of cataracts.

Risk Factors for Cataracts

As you explore what cataracts are, it is also important to know the risk factors associated with cataracts. While aging is the number one risk factor due to the breakdown of protein, other factors that cause the lens to cloud include:

  • Other family members with cataracts
  • Medical problems such as diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol Use
  • Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet sunlight
  • Previous eye injuries
  • Radiation to your upper body
  • Certain medications such as corticosteroids

Now that you have a better understanding of what cataracts are, it is important to seek treatment if you are experiencing blurry or cloudy vision. While doctors cannot predict when a cataract will develop, having a regular vision exam can help to prevent future complications. Cataracts can be treated.

Book your Appointment Today

If you suspect that you may have a cataract, contact the office of Dr. Barry Leonard & Associates. As the one of the best Optometrists in the San Fernando Valley, his staff will help you find the best time in your busy schedule to make an appointment. Call 818-891-6711 now or schedule an appointment online today.