Cataract 101

Apr 26, 2023
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A basic introduction to cataracts

Cataracts are one of the most common eye problems that I see in my clinic. Despite how common they are, I'm always surprised to hear that many of my patients, even highly educated people, don't know exactly what a cataract is. I intend to change that with this blog post, because it is really quite simple. 

So what are cataracts? In plain English, a cataract is an aging or clouding process of the natural lens, inside the eye. 

In my clinic I tend to use the word "opacification" to describe cataracts, which rolls off the tongue for me, but isn't always a common word for normal people. 

Basically, when we (most people) are born, we have a clear lens inside the eye. It's not in the back of the eye, but it's not right up front either (that's the cornea). The cataract is actually behind the pupil, which is the dark circle (or opening) in the middle of your eye. 

If you were to have access to a slit lamp microscope, which is how I examine a patient's eye, and looked behind the pupil with a special light, at the correct angle, you would see the natural lens right behind the pupil. This would be much easier to see if the eye was dilated, but you could still see the middle portion without dilation.

Depending on a person's age and other health conditions, this lens may either be completely clear (in which case we call it a "clear lens") or it may be cloudy (in which case we change the name, and call it a "cataract"). 

Now, once I establish that a patient has a cataract, the next step is to grade the cataract. In other words, I want to determine and communicate how bad the cataract is. 

The severity of the cataract is generally based on three factors: 

1) How bad the cataract looks to the examiner 

2) How poorly the patient sees on the eye chart with the BEST glasses prescription possible

3) Direct complaints from the patient about difficulty with his or her vision

Please stay tuned to this blog for more information about cataracts and other common eye problems. 

And if you are in the Orlando metro area, I'm accepting new patients

Until next time,