What are the Causes and Symptoms of Cataracts?

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness throughout the world, according to Prevent Blindness America. With more than 24 million people over 40 suffering from cataracts in the U.S. alone, Prevent Blindness America has declared June as Cataract Awareness Month. Because cataract surgery has a success rate of roughly 95 percent, education on the causes of cataracts, symptoms and treatment options can limit the numbers of people blinded by this affliction.


Source: Jovanmandic via iStock

Source: Jovanmandic via iStock

The lens of the eye is composed of mostly water and protein. A healthy lens is clear and allows light to pass through the eye to the retina where it signals the brain and ultimately translates into familiar images. Cataracts cause the lens to become cloudy, subsequently affecting the clarity of the images, or impairing vision completely.


More than 50 percent of Americans over the age of 80 will have cataracts or will have undergone cataract surgery, making age the most common cause of cataracts. This is because the protein that helps form the lens breaks down over time and begins to affect vision. Other causes of cataracts may include:


  • — Lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking alcohol
  • — Exposure to the sun’s harmful rays
  • — Diabetes
  • — Previous injury to the eye


Cataracts do not usually cause painful or teary, red eyes, but the condition will come with some symptoms. Some to watch for that may indicate cataracts include:


  • — Double vision, blurriness or ghosting. Some people experience a sense of a film covering their eye
  • — Sensitivity to bright light
  • — A visible spot in the pupil that appears milky or yellowed
  • — Changes in prescriptions for glasses or contacts that do not improve vision


Many of the symptoms of cataracts are also experienced in other eye disease, so a visit to your eye health professional is essential for proper diagnosis. A comprehensive eye exam, including optomap®, can help determine if your vision issues are being caused by cataracts