Cataracts, a common eye disease affecting roughly 60 percent of individuals over the age of 60, are a condition many young adults may not be aware of. However, cataracts do not only affect senior citizens. Knowledge of a cataracts progression can help you recognize the symptoms early on and avoid significant deterioration in eyesight.

Cataracts are a gradual clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens. Vision through eyes with cataracts can be like looking through a foggy window or piece of wax paper. Most cataracts develop slowly over time, and may not be noticeable early on. Given enough time, cataracts can significantly reduce an individual’s vision.

Cataracts are caused by clumping of proteins in the lens, behind the iris and pupil, and cloud a small area of the lens. Normally the lens works to focus light onto the retina at the back of the eye and also adjust the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is made of mostly water and protein, and the protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. With age or other factors, the proteins may start to break down, fogging this usually clear lens and reducing vision.

While there are many causes of cataracts, some of the most common include smoking and diabetes, but it can also occur by simple wear and tear over the years. Stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help initially when dealing with cataracts but as they become more severe, you may qualify for cataract surgery.

Modern cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure that takes approximately one half-hour or less and lets you return to normal activity within a few days. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens of your eye is removed and replaced with a clear lens implant.

According to the National Eye Institute, cataract removal is one of the most common operations performed in the United States. It also is one of the safest and most effective types of surgery. In about 90 percent of cases, people who have cataract surgery experience improved vision after the procedure.

If you think you may be experiencing a cataract and wish to seek consultation or treatment, please visit Kentucky Eye Institute online to find a location near you and make an appointment.