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Cataracts are very common in the older population. In fact, in the United States, more than half of those over the age of 80 either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery to correct the condition.
Cataracts occur when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. This results in the person seeing things that appear to have a cloudy or even blurred appearance.
The surface of the lens is mainly comprised of water and proteins. As we age, these proteins may begin to clump together making seeing through the lens more difficult. While cataracts can occur in both eyes, it does not spread from one eye to the other.
A normal, healthy lens allows light to pass through to the retina at the back of the eye. The retina then transmits these images to the brain which is what allows us to see. If the lens is cloudy, the image transmitted isn't sharp and results in cloudy vision.
In addition to developing due to age, some may develop a cataract after injury to the eye or complications with diabetes or other eye diseases. While cataracts are most likely to severely affect vision in the elderly, cataracts may occur at any time. People who drink alcohol, smoke, or do not protect their eyes from direct sunlight may also be at a higher risk of developing cataracts, even at a younger age.
Experts recommend following a healthy lifestyle as well as always wearing sun protection including a quality pair of sunglasses and headgear when outside. Cataracts can easily be corrected with surgery but it is best to avoid them if possible.
Comprehensive eye exams can alert your eye doctor to changes you may not have otherwise noticed therefore beginning the treatment process earlier and generally resulting in saved vision.
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