A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens, which lies behind the iris (the colored part) and the pupil (the black center). The lens is a clear, oval structure with three layers: the nucleus, the cortex, and the capsule. The lens works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina (light-sensitive tissue) at the back of the eye. The lens also adjusts the eye’s focus, allowing us to see things clearly, both up close and far away. A cataract develops when the nucleus becomes opaque (cloudy), or when small, cloudy areas develop in the cortex, blocking or scattering light.
What does this all mean? Basically, when a cataract is present, it may seem as though the eye is looking through a foggy window or a piece of waxed paper. Cataracts are very common; in fact, all of us will develop cataracts over the course of our lifetimes.
Cataract development is a gradual process. Many people are unaware they have cataracts because the changes in their vision are so gradual. In fact, in the early stages of its development, only a doctor can detect cataract formation.
As cataracts continue to progress, however, the following symptoms may be noticeable:
- Blurry distance vision, especially outdoors
- Streaks or rays of light, especially when exposed to oncoming headlights or to traffic lights
- Instinctively shading your eyes from the sun, either with a hand or a visor
- Printed materials appearing faded or lacking contrast
- Colors appearing faded or changing hue – blue may look green and yellow may appear white
Once removed, cataracts will not grow back. However, some patients may experience clouding of a thin tissue called the capsule or “bag” that holds the intra-ocular lens (IOL). If this occurs, a laser is used to painlessly open the clouded capsule and restore clear vision. Serving the Boston, Quincy and South Shore areas, The Nielsen Eye Center is here to help. If you have questions regarding cataracts, or any other eye health concerns, please contact one of our friendly and knowledgeable Patient Advocates.