Along with gray hair and wrinkles, cataracts are just an unfortunate reality of getting older. By the age of 80, more than half of all Americans will either have cataracts or will have had cataract surgery. The eye lens begins to cloud around middle age and continues to go from there. By the end, nearly everyone has cataracts in some form or another. Luckily, plenty of things can be done, and cataract surgery can restore clear vision to about 90 percent of those who undergo it.

What Is a Cataract?

Cataracts occur when the proteins of the eye begin to age and break down. Much like a camera, your eye requires a clear lens for you to have clear vision. As you age, the proteins on that lens begin to degrade and clump together, obscuring your vision and making the lens cloudy. As the clumps get larger, it becomes harder and harder to see and often necessitates surgery. Cataracts are most commonly caused by age, but they can develop earlier due to poor health habits, overexposure to the sun, and certain medications and chronic illnesses. Because it takes a long time for cataracts to develop, it can sometimes be difficult to spot the symptoms early on. Eventually, however, the cloudiness will become obvious. Your optometrist might also detect your cataracts before you do.

How to Manage Cataracts

If you’ve been diagnosed with cataracts, there are a few things you can do to treat the symptoms. Early on, you can find relief with stronger eyeglass prescriptions and magnifying glasses, but eventually, surgery may be required. Cataract surgery is the only way to clear your cataracts permanently – any eye drops or other medications claiming to cure cataracts are likely a scam. If your cataracts affect your day-to-day life, you should talk to your doctor about the possibility of getting them surgically removed.