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What Are Cataracts?

Most cataracts develop slowly over the course of years. The main symptom is blurry vision. Having cataracts can be like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. If you have a cataract Nationwide Vision’s expert staff and doctors are here to help you see clearly again.

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Image of an eye showing symptoms of a cataract

Understanding Cataracts - How do Cataracts Develop?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. Cataracts most commonly develop naturally as a part of the aging process. Although, they can also result from exposure to toxic substances, diseases such as diabetes, or after a physical injury to the eye. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40 and is the principal cause of blindness in the world. In fact, according to Prevent Blindness America (PBA) there are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined.
Today, cataracts affect more than 22 million Americans age 40 and older.  

Two people watching the sunset

What Causes Cataracts?

The lens inside the eye works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina for clear vision. It also adjusts the eye's focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away.

The lens is mostly made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract, and over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see. Besides advancing age, cataract risk factors include:

Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources





Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications

Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol

Previous eye injury or inflammation

Previous eye surgery

Hormone replacement therapy

Significant alcohol consumption

High myopia

Family history

Cataract Symptoms and Signs

A cataract starts out small and at first has little effect on your vision. You may notice that your vision is blurred a little, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass or viewing an impressionist painting.

Hazy, blurred vision may mean you have a cataract.  A cataract may make light from the sun or a lamp seem too bright or glaring. Or you may notice when you drive at night that the oncoming headlights cause more glare than before. Colors may not appear as bright as they once did.

Diagram of a cataracts versus a normal eye

Cataract Treatment

Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision.

Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision. In fact, it is the most frequently performed surgery in the United States, with more than 3 million Americans undergoing cataract surgery each year. The only way to diagnose if you have cataracts, as well as to determine the proper treatment, is to have a comprehensive eye examination.

Fortunately, our optometrists often can correct your cataract-related vision problems with glasses or contacts. However, individuals with advanced cataracts may be advised to consider a cataract procedure.

The procedure involves removing the clouded lens from your eye and replacing it with a transparent intraocular lens (IOL). After the procedure, you can expect a drastic improvement in your vision. If you believe you are a candidate for the procedure, treatment is available at one of our medical centers.

Stay on top of age-related eye diseases and illnesses by scheduling an annual comprehensive eye exam with your optometrist at a convenient Nationwide Vision location near you. 

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