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Age-related cataract is the most common cause of blindness that can be prevented. Read this article to learn about its causes and treatment options.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published At June 7, 2019
Reviewed AtJune 21, 2023


A cataract is a decrease in transparency of the natural crystalline lens present in the eye. The eye's lens usually is clear and helps focus light onto the retina at the back of the eye. However, with age, the lens can become less flexible and more opaque, leading to the development of a cataract. This can cause vision to become blurry, hazy, or distorted and make it difficult to see in dim light.

What Is an Age-Related Cataract?

Age-related cataract is a condition that affects the eye's lens, resulting in cloudy or opaque vision. It is a common cause of vision loss among older individuals and is gradual and progressive. It affects both eyes and may not develop simultaneously and rate in both eyes. Age-related cataract is also known as senile cataract.

What Are the Causes of Age-Related Cataracts?

Age-related cataracts are caused by changes in the protein structure within the eye's lens. These changes can cause the lens to become less transparent and result in cloudy areas' development. Factors contributing to the development of age-related cataracts include:

  • Aging causes the eye's lens protein to clump together and cause cloudy areas.

  • Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight or a tanning bed can damage the cells in the eye and increase the risk of cataract formation.

  • Smoking.

  • Diabetes changes glucose metabolism in the eye's lens, increasing the risk of cataract formation.

  • People who are genetically predisposed or have a family history.

  • Long-term medications like corticosteroids or statins increase the risk of cataracts.

  • Eye injury or inflammation.

  • Medical conditions like high blood pressure or obesity may increase the risk of developing cataracts.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Age-Related Cataracts?

  • Blurred or Hazy Vision: Vision may be cloudy or blurry, making it difficult to see clearly. The haziness develops gradually.

  • Sensitivity to Light: Bright lights may appear overly intense, causing glare or halos around lights.

  • Poor Night Vision: Night vision may be particularly affected, making it difficult to see in dimly lit environments.

  • Double Vision: Images may appear to be doubled or overlapped.

  • Fading or Yellowing of Colors: Colors may appear faded or yellowed and maybe less vibrant than they once were.

  • Need for Frequent Prescription Changes: Vision changes may require frequent changes to eyeglasses or contact lens prescriptions.

  • Difficulty Reading or Performing Close-up Tasks: It may be difficult to read or perform tasks that require close-up vision, such as sewing or reading.

How Are Age-Related Cataracts Diagnosed?

Diagnosing age-related cataracts typically involves a detailed eye examination include the following:

  • Visual Acuity Test: This test measures how far a person can view at distance with the help of an eye chart.

  • Dilated Eye Exam: Eye drops dilate the pupils, allowing the doctor to perform a complete examination of the lens and other parts of the eye. After dilation, nuclear size and brunescence (discoloration of the nucleus) are examined. The ocular adnexa and intraocular structures are also examined.

  • Slit-Lamp Exam: This exam uses a special microscope and a slit of light to examine the structures of the eye, including the lens. The cataract can be staged based on the appearance of the lens during this examination as follows

    • Hypermature cataract.

    • Mature cataract.

    • Immature cataract.

    • Incipient cataract.

  • Swinging Flashlight Test: This detects a relative afferent pupillary defect (RAPD) or a Marcus Gunn pupil. This indicates the presence of optic nerve lesions or severe retinal involvement.

  • Tonometry: This test monitor the pressure within the eye, which can help detect signs of glaucoma.

  • Retinal Exam: This is done to look at the back of the eye, including the retina, to check for any signs of damage or disease.

If cataracts are detected, the doctor may perform additional tests to determine the severity and location of the cataract and help determine the best course of treatment.

How Are Age-Related Cataracts Managed?

  • If the cataract is not yet mature, it can be managed temporarily using better reading glasses and increased lighting.

  • Preventive measures like sunglasses, managing medical conditions, and limiting alcohol and smoking can be done to slow down or prevent its progression.

  • If the cataract has matured, surgical management is no other option.

  • The surgical management is called lens extraction, in which the cloudy lens is eliminated and replaced with an intraocular lens which is an clear artificial lens. The following are the various surgical methods that are done

    • Extracapsular Cataract Extraction: This is the procedure of choice and involves the extraction of the lens through an opening in the anterior capsule. The integrity of the posterior capsule is retained. This procedure is rarely done in recent times.

    • Intracapsular Cataract Extraction: This technique is not used recently since it is associated with many complications. In this technique, the entire lens, along with the posterior capsule and the zonules, are removed.

    • Phacoemulsification: This type of cataract surgery is commonly used to remove age-related cataracts. It involves using ultrasonic waves to break up the cloudy lens into small pieces, which are then suctioned out through a tiny incision in the eye. This procedure is done under local anesthesia and as an outpatient surgery. The patient is monitored for a short period and then discharged.

    • Laser Phacolysis: This is a newer technique known as laser-assisted cataract surgery. An incision is created with the help of laser in the eye and soften the cloudy lens, making it easier to remove.

    • Intraocular Lens Implantation: All these procedures are combined with intraocular lens implantation. This refers to placing a clear artificial lens in place of the extracted cloudy lens.

What Are the Complications of Cataract Surgery?

  • Swelling and redness in the eye.

  • Swelling of the retina (cystoid macular edema).

  • Swelling of the cornea usually clears itself and is characterized by the fluid buildup in the cornea at the front of the eye.

  • Retinal detachment is a rare but serious complication in which the retina may separate from the inner wall of the eye.

  • Infections in the eye (endophthalmitis).

  • Secondary cataract.

  • Glaucoma.

  • Posterior capsule opacification is a condition in which the thin membrane surrounding the artificial lens becomes cloudy, causing vision to become blurry.

  • Ghosting after cataract surgery, in this condition, there will be the presence of white and dark regions within the area of vision. It is also called dyphotopsis.

  • Double vision after cataract surgery is the most common complication. It can be caused due to restriction of extraocular muscle, surgical trauma, or anesthetic damage of the muscle. Double vision can resolve on its own after a few days; in very rare cases, treatment will be required to restore normal vision.

  • An unresponsive pupil after cataract surgery is a rare complication where the pupil becomes unresponsive post-cataract extraction, disturbing the patient and the surgeon.

  • The eye will stay dilated after cataract surgery as the pupil remain dilated for about 24 to 48 hours post-surgery.

  • The pupil will be enlarged post-cataract surgery when the pupil is stretched open or a ring is placed. Over time the pupil may return to normal size, but it is not a sure thing. Those pupils who are enlarged up to five millimeters will not cause vision problems.

  • Blood sugar level for cataract surgery should be less than 140 during fasting and post-prandial should be less than 200. Such blood sugar level will help to prevent infection and helps in better and quick healing.


Suppose a cataract is neglected, apart from vision loss. In that case, the patient can develop complications like lens-induced glaucoma, leading to corneal edema, severe pain, and irreversible optic nerve damage. As cataract gets older, it can lead to poor surgical outcome due to a high rate of surgical complications, and the visual outcome may not be satisfactory. So it is advisable to seek the ophthalmologist at the earliest to get the best outcome with minimal complications.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Foods Improve Eyesight Naturally?

Many foods can help with vision. These are rich in vital nutrients for the eyes. For example, essential fatty acids,omega-3s, are found in fatty fish. Since omega-3s are a component of every cell membrane, they are essential to the body's cells.


Which Fruit Is Best for Eye Vision?

Kiwi fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C when discussing citrus fruits for eye health. Therefore, eat more of this fruit to ensure a healthy vision. In addition, the body converts an excellent source of beta-carotene found in watermelon into vitamin A.


How Can I Rebuild My Eyesight?

These include maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough rest, exercising frequently, and quitting smoking. Eye health benefits include lowering eye strain and shielding the eyes from UV rays and excessive blue light. In addition, there are several urban legends about enhancing vision without contacts, glasses, or surgery.


How Can I Improve Blurred Vision?

The most common cause of blurry vision is an outdated prescription for contacts or glasses. See the eye doctor frequently to keep the prescription current and check for any more severe issues. If a person works from home, keep the workspace well-lit, take breaks from screens, and take care of any contact lenses. If a person feels any unexpected changes in the vision, visit a doctor as soon as possible.


What Can Damage Eyesight?

Other illnesses like multiple sclerosis and high blood pressure can impact vision. Chronic inflammation, which can harm health on all fronts, is linked to these illnesses. For instance, optic nerve inflammation can result in discomfort and even total blindness.


How Can I Improve My Eyesight in Seven Days?

If people follow healthy steps every day for seven days, their vision should improve. Improve the brain's health because the eyes and brain are constantly communicating with one another. After all, if the optic nerve will not transmit light images to the brain, a person will not be able to see at all.


How Can I Prevent My Eyesight From Getting Worse?

First, apply a hot compress, then a cold compress. Get the essential vitamins and minerals needed to prevent long-term vision loss. Remember carotenoids. Keep up healthy fitness. Do wear protective eyewear. Give up smoking. Visit often for an eye check-up.


Which Vitamins Are Best for Eyes?

Another antioxidant that helps shield eyes from harm is vitamin E. When combined with other antioxidants like vitamin C and lutein, macular degeneration may be slowed down. Almonds and sunflower seeds are a few foods that are good providers of vitamin E.


What Causes Eyesight to Improve?

One of the most crucial actions a person can take to enhance vision is to wear sunglasses. Sunglasses that entirely or almost completely block UVA and UVB rays from sunlight. Sunglasses help shield the eyes from diseases caused by eye damage.


What Do Floaters in the Eye Mean?

Eyes that float produce flopping vision The vitreous, a jelly-like substance found inside the eyes, becomes more liquid as age increases. Collagen strands that are tiny and present in the vitreous tend to cluster together when this occurs. The retina is affected by these small shadows cast by the debris, and a person sees these shadows as eye floaters.


How Do Eyes Get Weak?

Environment and age are two significant contributors to poor vision. However, people cannot improve their vision just by wearing glasses or contacts. Complete blindness is not a condition of weak eyesight because there is still some vision, which can be enhanced with visual aids.


Does Watching TV Affect Eyesight?

Most medical professionals concur that gazing at televisions and computer screens do not result in long-term eye damage. However, focusing the eyes on one thing for an extended period can result in eyestrain, a brief (but uncomfortable) ailment.


What Happens if a Dry Eye Is Not Treated?

In severe cases, untreated, dry eyes can harm the cornea and impair a person's vision. Blocked glands, sensitivity to the environment (wind, air pollution), infrequent blinking, specific drugs, medical problems, contact lenses, and Demodex mites are just a few causes of dry eye syndrome.
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