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Cataract awareness

GEHA | July 17, 2019

When you have cataracts, it feels like you're looking through a fogged-up window.

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. It’s like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or see the expression on a friend’s face.

Most cataracts develop in people more than 55 years old, but they occasionally occur in infants and young children.  

Cataract symptoms may include:

  • Clouded, blurred or dim vision
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Need for brighter light for reading and other activities
  • Seeing “halos” around lights
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
  • Fading or yellowing of colors
  • Double vision

If you notice changes in your vision, see an eye doctor. If you develop sudden vision changes such as double vision or flashes of light, eye pain or headaches, see your doctor right away.

Factors that increase your risk of cataracts:

  • Aging
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol

Strategies to reduce your risk:

  • Have regular eye exams
  • Quit smoking
  • Manage other health problems
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits and vegetables
  • Wear sunglasses
  • Reduce alcohol use

Cataract treatment is based on the level of visual impairment. If your vision is minimally affected, no treatment may be needed and your doctor will monitor you for increased visual symptoms through regular eye exams. In some cases, changing your eyeglass or contact lens prescription may provide temporary vision improvement. Anti-glare coatings on eyeglass lenses may help reduce night glare.

When a cataract progresses to a point that it affects your ability to do daily tasks, surgery may be needed. Surgery involves removing the lens of the eye and replacing it with an artificial lens. The artificial lens requires no care and can significantly improve your vision.

“Cataract.”, American Optometric Association, 2019.
"Cataracts.", Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER), updated 28 Sept. 2023.