Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss among adults age 55 and older. At Mass. Eye and Ear, the Comprehensive Ophthalmology and Cataract Surgery Service is the primary office for evaluation and treatment of cataracts. For patients with additional complications, cataract surgery may be performed by the patient's subspecialist.
A cataract is a cloudiness or opacity in the normally clear and transparent lens of the eye that is caused by changes in the chemical composition of the lens. When this clouding is significant, it interferes with the passage of light to the retina and blurs vision. The most common cause of cataracts is the natural aging process, and cataracts tend to increase in severity with advancing age. Certain medications, disease or injury, or hereditary factors also can cause cataracts.
Types of Cataracts
- A nuclear cataract occurs in the center of the lens. Initially, it may cause a slight improvement in near vision called "second sight”, which worsens as the cataract progresses.
- A cortical cataract begins as spokes in the outer portion of the lens. When the spokes approach the center of the vision, they may cause glare and loss of contrast sensitivity.
- A subcapsular cataract starts as a small opacity in the outer membrane of the lens, developing slowly. Diabetes, retinitis pigmentosa, and steroid use are common causes.
Signs and Symptoms
Painless blurring of distance and reading vision, overall dimness of vision, sensitivity to light, feeling of having a “film” over the eye, frequent eyeglass prescription changes, double vision, glare and haloes around lights
Cataract surgery is a procedure that removes the diseased lens and replaces it with a prosthesis. Some patients may choose to use special replacement lenses, which can correct for refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism). While the surgeons in several of the Mass. Eye and Ear specialty services perform cataract surgery on their patients, our primary service for this kind of procedure is the Comprehensive Ophthalmology and Cataract Consultation Service. For information on the surgery for cataracts, please visit our Cataract Treatment webpage.