Young people can see things clearly, both at a distance and up close, because a lens inside the eye adjusts for near and far focusing. As we age, our crystalline lens becomes stiffer, reducing our range of focus. That’s why many of us start to need glasses for reading as we reach our 40s and 50s.

Eventually our crystalline lens takes on a yellow tint and becomes cloudy—this is called a cataract. Cataracts impair vision in over half of people who are over 60 years old. In fact, everyone who lives long enough develops cataracts. As such, cataract surgery is the most common procedure performed in the United States with over 95 percent of patients restoring complete visual clarity after the procedure.

Cigarette smoking and extra exposure to UV light, including sunlight, can cause cataracts to form at an earlier age than normal. Wearing UV blocking sunglasses during outdoor activities may help delay cataract formation. 

Once cataracts begin to impair your daily activities such as reading or driving, an ophthalmologist can remove your crystalline lens and replace it with a small plastic intraocular lens as an outpatient procedure. Lenses can be chosen that correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Special premium lenses can provide good vision at both near and far distances to avoid having to wear glasses. Wearing UV blocking sunglasses starting at a young age during outdoor activities may help delay cataract formation.

To learn about cataract treatment options continue reading.