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What is cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's clear lens. This prevents the passage of light into the eye needed for vision. Cataracts start out small and have little effect on vision at first. But as the cataract grows, it clouds more of the lens. Symptoms include painless blurring of vision, double vision in one eye, fading or yellowing of colors and sensitivity to light and glare.

Who is affected by cataracts?

Cataracts are very common. Approximately 20.5 million Americans age 40 and older have cataracts. However, anyone at any age can develop a cataract. The most common cause of cataract in people under 40 is eye trauma.

More than half of all Americans develop cataracts by age 80. Cataracts are a significant cause of blindness in some parts of the world, but technological advances and the availability of new procedures in the United States mean that for most Americans, cataracts don't lead to vision loss.

How are cataracts treated?

New advances and techniques have made cataract surgery one of the most successful and life-improving surgical procedures. Cataract surgery is the most frequently performed surgical procedure in the United States, with more than 1.5 million procedures performed each year. Cataract surgery is usually covered by medical insurance, including Medicare. Cataract surgery is done as an outpatient procedure under local anesthesia. In this procedure, the ophthalmologist makes a tiny incision through which he or she removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with a permanent artificial lens.