The good news is that cataracts is an easily treatable condition with simple and safe corrective surgery. But cataracts don’t go away on their own, experts warn, and ignoring the signs and symptoms could potentially lead to vision impairment or eventually vision loss. According to the National Eye Institute, cataracts affect more than half of all Americans aged 80 years or older. During June’s Cataract Awareness Month, eyecare professionals should remind their patients, especially those over the age of 40, to have regular eye exams and to be aware of the symptoms related to the onset of cataracts.

“The biggest risk factor is really age,” said Sila Bal, MD, MPH, a global ophthalmology fellow and a cataract, cornea and refractive surgeon. “Anyone after a certain age will develop cataracts, almost like developing wrinkles or gray hairs. Other factors that determine the age and severity of cataracts becoming visually significant are many of the same things that determine our overall health. Things such as UV exposure, smoking and diabetes can all lead to early onset cataracts. Other factors, such as trauma, eye surgery, or other ocular comorbidities can also lead to cataracts.

“Cataracts, when diagnosed and treated at the right time, are an easily treatable condition. It is essential that you have yearly eye exams starting between the ages of 40 and 50 so that your doctor can monitor your eyes for any signs of progressive eye disease,” Dr. Bal added.

 Sila Bal, MD, MPH.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide and the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S Additionally, an estimated 20.5 million Americans aged 40 years and older have cataract in one or both eyes. Additionally, an estimated 20.5 million Americans aged 40 years and older have cataract in one or both eyes.

“While slowly progressive blurry vision is the most common sign of cataracts, another common early sign is seeing glare or halos at night (many people notice this while they are driving or are around lights),” said Dr. Bal. “While cataracts are inevitable, there are many things you can do to prevent early onset cataracts. Staying healthy by eating healthy and exercising regularly are not only good for your overall well-being, but also help prevent early cataracts due to diabetes. Protecting your eyes from the sun is especially important as is preventing any trauma to the eyes.”

The Cleveland Clinic stated that cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures, with surgeons performing more than 3 million cataract surgeries in the U.S., and 20 million globally, improving vision for 97 percent of patients. For those who have had cataract surgery recommended by their eye doctors, Prevent Blindness offers the dedicated webpage,, and its printable “Guide to Cataract Surgery.”

“Cataract surgery is overall very safe and most patients are seeing very clearly within one week. However, the safety of surgery depends on a number of factors like whether you have other ocular comorbidities, other health issues such as diabetes, the medications you take which can sometimes affect your eyes, and the density of the cataract,” said Dr. Bal. “Your eye surgeon will be able to discuss your unique risk factors with you and help you understand your risks for surgery.

“Blindness in the eye due to infection, bleeding, or retinal detachment is rare and occurs in approximately 1 in 5,000 cases. Less serious complications that can generally be treated without long-term visual effects, such as corneal or retinal swelling, inflammation, or needing a second surgery, occur in approximately 5 percent of cases,” Dr. Bal said.

While the development of cataracts is usually associated with age, they can occur early in life as well in certain cases.

“Cataracts can occur at any age, and some babies can be born with cataracts. These babies usually have an underlying genetic condition or were exposed to infections or toxins during pregnancy,” noted Dr. Bal. “Pediatric cataracts need to be assessed and diagnosed urgently to prevent long-term damage to visual development in children.”

As previously noted, the overlying message for patients is to see their eye doctor regularly and to be aware of the signs and symptoms of cataracts as they age in order to prevent further visual impairment.

“While cataracts are surgically treatable, if left untreated they can become so dense that you cannot see anything more than movement or even just light through the cloudiness of the lens,’ cautioned Dr. Bal. “You want to avoid getting to that point with yearly eye exams as surgery on dense, blinding cataracts is much more complex than surgery on moderate cataracts.”

Jackson Eye reminds patients that June is Cataract Awareness Month. Image via @JacksonEyeLV on X

AngelEyesVision wants patients to be informed on the development of cataracts. Image via @AngelEyesVision on X

Levin Eye Care Center reminds patients that cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in the U.S. Image via @LevinEyeCare on X