cataract, in medicine, opacity of the lens of the eye, which impairs vision. In the young, cataracts are generally congenital or hereditary; later they are usually the result of degenerative changes brought on by aging or systemic disease (diabetes). Cataracts brought on by aging are most common; most individuals over 60 exhibit some degree of lens opacity. Injury, extreme heat, ultraviolet light, X rays, nuclear radiation, inflammatory disease, and toxic substances also cause cataracts. There is growing concern that further disintegration of the ozone layer will increase the incidence of cataracts. Advanced cataracts are usually treated by surgical removal of the lens and implantation of an artificial lens. After cataract surgery, which is the most common surgical procedure in the United States, most patients do not require thick glasses or contact lenses.
cat·a·ract / ˈkatəˌrakt/ • n. 1. a large waterfall. ∎ a sudden rush of water; a downpour: the rain enveloped us in a deafening cataract. 2. (usu. cataracts) a medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque, resulting in blurred vision.
Cataract, the leading cause of blindness worldwide, is a clouding of the crystalline lens of the eye. Symptoms of cataract include blurred vision, difficulty reading print and street signs, light sensitivity, and glare disability. Most cataracts are agerelated, but environmental factors such as ultraviolet light exposure, tobacco smoking, diabetes mellitus, trauma, certain congenital infections, and some medications can accelerate their growth. In some hereditary conditions, such as galactosemia, a single gene defect is responsible. Treatment of visually significant cataract, which is highly successful, involves surgically removing the cloudy lens and implanting a clear plastic replacement lens.
Kevin M. Miller
(see also: Vision Disorders )