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Cataract – What Causes It?

When vision becomes cloudy, normally due to age factor, you can suspect cataract. The primary effect of cataract is blurred vision. Then, what is cataract and how does it develop? The word cataract is derived from Latin word cataracta which means waterfall. It is metaphorically imported into the modern English for its blurring effect on the eye.

What Is Cataract

Cataract is clouding of the eye lens, mostly due to aging, barring a small percentage of other secondary reasons like diabetes, sustained exposure to ultraviolet light etc. The US National Institutes of Health and National Eye Institute have estimated that over half of Americans above the age of 80 will develop cataract or have already developed.

If you did not know already, cataract will not spread from eye to eye, but can occur in either or both eyes.

What Causes Cataracts to Develop?

Most age related cataracts develop in either of the two ways discussed here.

1. Protein clumping is one of the main reasons for clouding of the lens. This occurs when lens proteins begin to denature as a result of aging. You may not be able to notice the difference when cataract is small but as it grows and spreads, eye sight gets worse and eyeglasses and stronger lighting can help cope up until surgery is an absolute necessity.

2. With the aging of lens, it looses its natural clarity and may add a tint of yellow or brown. As with protein induced cataract, you may not be able to notice the browning or blurring of vision initially. But with the passage of time and increase in browning, reading and routine activities get affected. The one difference in tinted cataract is, the vision sharpness will not reduce but identifying colors like blues and purples will be difficult.

How Do I Know if I Have Cataract

Cataract will not show signs until at least it has developed partially. However these are the common symptoms.

  • Faded colors and blurred vision
  • Poor night vision but headlights and sunlight may appear all too bright with a halo around the source.
  • Temporary double or multiple visions which gets cleared as cataract develops further.
  • Frequent need to change contact lenses or spectacles.

Who Is At Risk? Should I Worry?

Those who indulge in alcoholism or those who are exposed to UV light for a long time are at danger of developing cataract. Even diabetics face the same risk.

Different Types of Cataract

1. Secondary cataracts as an after effect of eye surgery, like in the case of glaucoma
2. Congenital cataracts in new born babies, which in rare cases lead to lens replacement
3. Traumatic cataracts due to eye injuries. These have very late onsets


Early symptoms are taken care off by eyeglasses but when everyday life gets affected after its complete development, surgery is the proven way. Be sure to speak with your doctor and optometrist to see what options are available and best suited for you.

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