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Cataracts
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Yichieh Shiuey, MD
Peter K. Kaiser, MD
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School
October 15, 2002

What is a cataract?
Inside the eye, there is a lens which helps us to focus on what we see. As a part of the normal aging process, the lens can slowly become cloudy. This cloudiness of the lens is called a cataract. In some people, the cloudiness can become severe enough that it decreases vision. In other words, the cataract has become visually significant.

Who gets cataracts?
Most people who develop cataracts are older than age 60. The cataract forms as part of the normal aging process. Two conditions which may cause the development of cataract earlier than age 60 are diabetes and injury to the eye. Certain medications such as steroids may also cause cataract formation.

How do I know if I have a cataract?
People who have cataracts often notice a decrease in their vision. For example, they may have difficulty reading or driving. Another common problem is glare. Because of glare, people with cataracts may find it harder to see when there are bright lights on, such as when looking at the oncoming headlights of a car. An eye physician can tell if you have a cataract by examining your eyes.

How are cataracts treated?
People often think that cataracts can be removed with a laser. This is not true. Cataracts cannot be removed with a laser. In addition, there is no medicine one can take to treat a cataract. Cataracts are treated by microscopic surgery. In cataract micro-surgery, a tiny incision is made in the eye and the cloudy lens is removed through this opening. A clear, plastic lens is then put in the eye to REPLACE the cloudy lens. Following cataract surgery, most people will experience substantial improvement in their vision.

If you would like to see pictures and movies demonstrating cataract surgery they are available FROM the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

Who performs cataract surgery?
Eye physicians and surgeons (ophthalmologists) are medical doctors, M.D.'s, who have undergone specialized training in ORDER to be able perform cataract surgery. The Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology, located at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, has several staff ophthalmologists who are experienced in all aspects of cataract surgery including the latest micro-surgical techniques.

How do I get more information?
Please call your local eye care professional for more information about cataracts. To arrange for an appointment in the New England area with an ophthalmologist call the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, General Eye and Cataract Consultation Service at (617) 573-3202.
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The information and recommendations appearing on these pages are informational only and is not intended to be a basis for diagnosis, treatment or any other clinical application. For specific information concerning your personal medical condition, the DJO suggests that you consult your physician.