Cataracts are a common, progressive eye condition that affects about 2.4 million Americans [1], typically over the age of 40. The risk of developing cataracts increases over time, and by the age of 75, nearly half of Americans have them. However, age is not the only factor that contributes to cataracts as genetics, injury, and certain medical conditions are also potential causes.

Fortunately, cataracts can be effectively treated through a surgical procedure that involves replacing the cloudy lens with an artificial one. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and available treatment options is crucial for maintaining good eye health and quality of life as we age. In this article, we’ll discuss all of these factors and explain how to prevent cataracts.

What Are Cataracts?

A cataract is characterized by the clouding of the eye’s lens [2]. This cloudiness gradually impairs vision by obstructing the passage of light to the retina, leading to symptoms such as blurred vision in one or both eyes, increased sensitivity to glare, and difficulty with daily activities like reading or driving. Cataracts usually develop slowly and do not negatively impact eyesight early on, however, they eventually impair vision over time without treatment.

What Do Cataracts Look Like?

A cataract appears as a cloudy area or opacity [3] within the lens of the eye. In the early stages, it may be subtle and go unnoticed, but as the condition progresses the cloudy eyes become more pronounced. The lens, which is normally clear, turns opaque, leading to a gradual loss of transparency.

This clouding can vary in appearance from a slightly hazy or milky layer to a more pronounced white or yellowish discoloration. For the affected individual it is similar to looking through a frosted or smudged window, and as the condition progresses it can cause vision to become increasingly blurred and make it challenging to perceive details, colors, and contrast. The specific symptoms may differ among different individuals and can affect vision to varying degrees depending on the type of cataract.

How A Cataract Affects Your Vision

A cataract impacts vision by clouding the eye’s lens, which focuses light onto the retina. As it develops, the cataract scatters and distorts incoming light, leading to a range of visual disturbances. Initially, vision may become slightly blurred, and colors may appear duller. Over time, these changes can become more severe, causing increased difficulty with tasks like reading, driving, and recognizing faces. Sensitivity to glare and halos around lights may also develop.

Ultimately, if left untreated, cataracts can lead to severe visual impairment and negatively impact overall quality of life. However, cataract surgery can very successfully restore clear vision by replacing the cloudy lens with an artificial one.

What Are the Causes of Cataracts?

There are several different causes of cataracts, with age being the biggest risk factor. Through the natural aging process, the proteins in the lens of the eye can break down and clump together, ultimately clouding the lens.

Other factors include:

  • Genetics
  • Diabetes
  • Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays
  • Eye injuries, inflammation, or surgery
  • Certain medications, such as corticosteroids
  • Lifestyle factors like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Obesity (3)

What Are the Symptoms of Cataracts?

Cataracts may include a range of symptoms that gradually worsen as the condition progresses. Some of the most common include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Seeing colors as faded or yellow
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Seeing halos around light sources
  • Reduced contrast, affecting the ability to discern fine details
  • Double vision in one eye
  • Poor night vision

What Are the Different Types of Cataracts?

Cataracts can manifest in different forms, each type affecting a different part of the lens. Every type has specific characteristics [4] and may require a different treatment approach.

  • Nuclear Cataracts: The most common type, nuclear cataracts develop in the nucleus of the lens and are typically associated with aging. They cause a gradual yellowing and hardening of the lens, making colors appear duller and causing halos around bright objects at night. Initially, with nuclear cataracts, your vision when reading may improve. This is referred to as second sight, however, with time it will likely also become impaired.
  • Cortical Cataracts: This type develops in the cortex or outside the edge of the lens. These cataracts are characterized by white wedges similar to triangles that point toward the center of your eyes.
  • Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts: These cataracts form at the back of the lens capsule, which surrounds the lens and holds it in place. They can impair near vision and cause sensitivity to glare.
  • Anterior Subcapsular Cataracts: These form inside the front of your lens capsules, and they are primarily caused by injury or inflammation. In addition, eczema is often associated with a higher risk of developing this type of cataract.
  • Congenital Cataracts: An individual is either born with this type of cataract or it develops during childhood.
  • Secondary Cataracts: These are cataracts that develop as a consequence of an eye injury or as a symptom of a medical condition like diabetes. Secondary cataracts may also occur as a result of surgery or steroid use.

At What Age Do Cataracts Usually Develop?

Cataracts typically begin to develop as we age, and the risk increases with advancing years. While there is no precise age at which cataracts begin, they are most commonly diagnosed in individuals over the age of 60. However, the symptoms may have been developing for some time previously.

Age-related cataracts are the most prevalent type and often develop gradually, causing progressive deterioration in vision. However, cataracts may occur at a younger age in some cases due to factors like genetics, medical conditions, or eye injuries. For this reason, it’s important in particular for individuals over the age of 60 to have regular exams to monitor eye health and detect cataracts or other issues with vision early.

How Common Are Cataracts?

Cataracts are very common worldwide, particularly among the aging population, and they are one of the leading causes of visual impairment and blindness. With increasing age, the likelihood of developing cataracts increases.

In the United States, for example, it is estimated that more than half of all Americans have cataracts or have undergone cataract surgery by the age of 80 [5]. Cataracts can also occur in younger individuals due to factors such as genetics, medical conditions, or eye injuries. In summary, cataracts can affect different age groups, but they are most prevalent among the elderly.

Cataract Symptoms

What Are the Risk Factors for Cataracts?

Cataracts can develop due to environmental, medical, or genetic causes. Let’s look at each of these risk factors in detail.

1. Environmental Risk Factors

  • Exposure to UV Radiation: Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) sunlight is a well-established environmental risk factor for cataracts. Wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats when you are outdoors can help reduce this risk.
  • Smoking: Smoking is associated with an increased risk of cataracts, as tobacco contains harmful chemicals that can contribute to their development.
  • Poor Nutrition: A diet lacking in antioxidants and essential nutrients like Vitamins A, C, and E may increase the risk of developing cataracts.

2. Medical Risk Factors

  • Diabetes: Individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk for cataracts, and they may develop them at a younger age than is typical.
  • Certain Medications: Long-term use of steroid medications such as prednisone can increase the risk of developing cataracts.
  • Eye Injuries and Inflammation: Past eye injuries, surgeries, or conditions like uveitis can increase the likelihood of developing cataracts.

3. Genetic Risk Factors

  • Family History: There is a genetic component to cataract risk, meaning that if they run in your family, you may be more predisposed to developing them.
  • Congenital Cataracts: Some babies are born with cataracts, or they develop in childhood due to genetic factors.

How Are Cataracts Diagnosed?

Cataracts are typically diagnosed through a comprehensive eye examination performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist, which includes the following steps.

  • Medical History and Symptoms: The eye care professional will begin by taking a detailed medical history asking about your symptoms, family history of cataracts, and risk factors.
  • Visual Acuity Test: The medical practitioner will conduct a basic eye chart test to measure your visual acuity, which assesses how well you can see at various distances and the clarity of your vision.
  • Slit-Lamp Examination: The doctor will use a microscope with a bright light or slit-lamp biomicroscope to examine the clear outer layer or cornea, the iris, and the lens. This allows for assessment of the size, location, and severity of the cataract.
  • Retinal Eye Examination: The medical practitioner may use eye drops to dilate your pupils, allowing for a better view of the lens and retina.
  • Fluid Pressure Test: Intraocular pressure (IOP) is measured using a tonometer to rule out conditions like glaucoma, which may coexist with cataracts.

What’s the Treatment?

When cataracts interfere with daily activities or reduce vision to the point where they hinder your quality of life, cataract surgery is typically recommended. This is one of the most common and successful surgical procedures worldwide. Surgical removal of cataracts is a highly effective procedure that involves replacing the cloudy natural lens with an artificial one.

Wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses is another helpful method for dealing with cataracts. In addition, taking a natural product like Ocuvital Eye Health Supplements can help to enhance your vision by protecting your eyes from sunlight and free radicals, decreasing strain and fatigue, and sharpening night vision. Ocuvital contains organic ingredients that aid in improving overall eye health.


Cataracts are a prevalent but treatable eye condition that primarily affects the aging population. While not inherently painful, these cloudy formations on the lens of the eye can significantly impair vision and lead to a decline in daily functioning and quality of life.

Recognizing early warning signs such as blurred vision in one or both eyes, sensitivity to glare, and poor night vision is crucial for timely intervention. Cataract surgery, a remarkably successful and routine procedure, offers a solution by replacing the cloudy lens with an artificial one to restore clarity and function.

Regular eye examinations, awareness of risk factors, taking supplements such as Ocuvital, and prompt medical attention contribute to maintaining optimal eye health and can help prevent cataract-related complications.