Cataracts are a common age-related vision problem. About 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts, and the older a person gets the greater the risk for developing cataracts. Women are more likely to develop cataracts than men, and African Americans and Hispanic Americans are at particularly high risk.
In addition to age, other factors may increase the risk of cataract development. These include:
During the early stages, cataracts may have little effect on vision. Symptoms vary due to the location of the cataract in the eye (nuclear, cortical, or posterior subcapsular). Depending on the type and extent of the cataract, patients may experience the following symptoms:
Cataracts never go away on their own, but some stop progressing after a certain point. But if cataracts continue to grow and progress, they can cause blindness if left untreated. Fortunately, cataracts can usually always be successfully removed with surgery. Millions of cataract surgeries are performed each year in the United States, and there is a very low risk for complications. However, before opting for surgery, patients need to consider on an individual basis how severely a cataract interferes with their quality of life. Cataract surgery is rarely an emergency, so patients have time to consult with their doctors and carefully consider the risks and benefits of surgery.
Cataract Removal Surgery
Surgery involves removing the cataract and replacing the abnormal lens with a permanent implant called an intraocular lens (IOL). The operation takes less than 1 hour and is performed on an outpatient basis. The procedure is generally painless and most patients remain awake during it. If you have cataracts in both eyes, doctors recommend waiting at least 1 month between surgeries.
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