A cataract is a clouding of the human lens of the eye. We all have a lens in our eye which is necessary for focusing light on to our retina. As we age, with exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) Light, the lens slowly becomes less transparent assuming a cloudy yellow appearance. This can greatly diminish ones vision over time.
There are many misconceptions about cataracts. Cataracts are not a film over the eye, they are not made worse by overuse of the eye, and they usually occur in both eyes. Certain risk factors do increase the chance of getting cataracts. These risk factors include cigarette smoking, including second hand smoke, diabetes, steroid use, UV light exposure, family history, eye injury, and unknown factors.
The earliest symptoms are a slight decrease in night vision including halos and glare around lights. Cataracts are easily diagnosed by an ophthalmologist. Cataracts are a "normal" aging change since everyone is exposed to UV light. They are by far the most common eye condition as we age.
When one's lifestyle is compromised, the cataract can easily be removed in a typically painless outpatient procedure that typically takes only 8 to 15 minutes to perform. After surgery patients can usually resume virtually all their activities and it is extremely rare to experience any pain or discomfort at all.
The surgical technique, called micro-incision phacoemulsification, is typically performed through a 3 millimeter wound. The phacoemulsification unit uses ultrasound to "liquefy" the M & M sized cataract and sucks it out of the eye. An intraocular lens implant (IOL), which is calculated individually for each patient, is inserted back in the eye to allow the light rays to clearly focus back on the retina.
Even though complications are very rare, they can occur with even the most experienced ophthalmologists. Certain conditions such as diabetes and former eye trauma can increase the chances of complications.
For more detailed information on cataracts and/or cataract surgery, go to the link of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).