A cataract is caused by proteins clumping together. Proteins, unlike the lens of the eye, are not clear, so the clumping causes cloudy spots on the lens. The lens can also become discolored, which hampers vision.
Cataracts can form in one eye, or in both. They typically get worse over time, and as the clouding gets worse, the person's vision is more impaired.
Common Types of Cataracts:
Senile Cataracts: Cataracts that form with age, typically found in the elderly.
Congenital Cataracts: Cataracts that are present at birth
Traumatic Cataracts: Cataracts that form after a traumatic injury to the eye. A cataract may form years after the original injury.
Radiation Cataracts: Cataracts that form after exposure to radiation.
Secondary Cataracts: Cataracts that are caused by another treatment or condition. Diabetes, eye surgery and even some medications can cause the formation of a cataract.
Cataracts cannot be prevented in all cases, but eliminating smoking and alcohol from your lifestyle and minimizing exposure to sunlight (wear sunglasses!) can minimize your risk of forming cataracts. A diet rich in antioxidants from fresh fruit and vegetables may also reduce the risk of cataracts.
Regular vision checks, at least every two years, can lead to earlier detection of cataracts. The earlier cataracts are detected, the better your doctor can treat the disease.
Facts About Cataracts. National Eye Institute. Accessed January,2011. http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts.asp