Cataract Diagnosis and Symptoms

What is a cataract?

A cataract, which is a progressive clouding of the lens inside the eye, is the leading cause of vision loss among adults aged 55 and older.

There are four primary reasons that cataracts develop:

  • Senile cataracts: The most common form of cataract is associated with normal aging (particularly after age 50), which can cause the lens to harden and turn cloudy.
  • Traumatic cataracts: This type of cataract may result from an injury, such as a sharp blow, an electrical or chemical burn, or a very high dose of radiation.
  • Secondary cataracts: Certain medications, such as steroids, or diseases, such as diabetes, can also cause the lens to cloud.
  • Congenital cataracts: In rare cases, children can be born with cataracts. This primarily occurs because of genetic factors or because the mother had a disease during pregnancy.

When cataracts are very advanced, the cloudiness can interfere with the passage of light to the retina, and cause blurry vision. If you develop a cataract in one eye, you will likely develop a cataract in the other eye as well, although the second cataract may not develop for several years.

What are the signs and symptoms of cataracts?

Depending on the size and location of the cloudy areas in the lens, a person may not realize a cataract is developing. Signs include:

  • Vision becomes blurry, hazy, or washed out
  • A reduction in night vision
  • A sensitivity to light and glare
  • A need for frequent changes in eyeglass prescription
  • Double vision in one eye

For more information about cataracts, visit the Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service.