What is a cataract?

A cataract is a loss of transparency, or clouding, of the lens of the eye. Similar to a camera, the lens of the eye focuses light onto the retina where an image is recorded. Over time, the lens can become cloudy, thus prohibiting light rays from passing through sharply.


What causes a cataract?

Cataracts may form as a result of aging, diabetes, trauma, or even long-term exposure to ultraviolet light. Although most commonly a condition found in older adults, cataracts can develop at any age including childhood.


What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include blurred vision, a reduction in color intensity, a yellowing of images, poor night vision, glare, a frequent change in eyeglass prescription and in unusual cases, double vision. Cataract formation is usually a gradual, painless lessening of vision.


How is a cataract detected?

A cataract is diagnosed during a comprehensive eye exam, which includes examination with an ocular microscope and a vision test to determine visual acuity – the sharpness of various size images.


How is a cataract treated?

When routine activities such as reading and driving are hindered by this loss of vision, the cataract may be surgically removed. There are two options for surgery: Extracapsular Cataract Extraction and Phacoemulsification. Once the cataract is removed, it is often replaced by an artificial lens, known as an Intraocular lens (IOL). IOL’s can either be acrylic or silicone.


What are the risks associated with surgery?

Risks include infection and bleeding. Severe infection may cause vision loss. Patients who undergo cataract surgery have a slightly greater chance of developing retinal detachment. The presence of other eye disorders, such as myopia (nearsightedness) may further intensify this risk. However, early treatment can prevent permanent vision loss.


Additional Information

Cataract surgery is a common procedure. It is safe. The majority of persons undergoing cataract surgery experience improved vision afterward. To read more about cataracts, visit our Patient Education section by clicking here. If you would like to schedule an appointment with us, call The Eye Institute of Marin, conveniently located in Terra Linda at (415) 444-0300.