Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Chicana and Chicano StudiesLatino Health Issues

Eye Disease: Cataracts

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A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye.

The lens lies behind the iris and the pupil. It works a lot like a camera lens. It focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where an image is recorded. The lens also adjusts the eye's focus, letting us see things clearly.

The lens is made of mostly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it.

Researchers say that there are many causes of cataract, such as smoking and diabetes. It also may be that the protein in the lens just changes from the wear and tear it takes over the years. Cataracts were found to be no more prevalent among Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites.



If you are over age 60, you should have an eye examination at least once every two years.

This exam should include dilating your pupils. Drops are put into your eyes to enlarge your pupils. Although a cataract can be detected without dilated pupils, your eye care professional can see the back of your eye better using this exam.

Getting a good view of the retina and optic nerve is important in detecting eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration.


The greatest risk factor is age but there are many other factors that increase your risk of cataracts, which include:

  • Diabetes
  • Family history of cataracts
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroids
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight



The only way to know if you have a cataract for sure, is by having an eye examination.

A cataract usually starts out small. It has little effect on vision at first. You may notice that your vision is blurred a little, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass. Also, colors may seem less bright.

As the cataract gets bigger and clouds more of the lens (as it "ripens"), you will find it harder to read and do other normal tasks. The word "cataract" means waterfall. For people with a ripe cataract, it is like trying to see through a waterfall.

Other symptoms include:

  • Clouded, blurred or dim vision
  • Increasing difficulty with vision at night
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Halos around lights
  • The need for brighter light for reading and other activities
  • Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
  • Fading or yellowing of colors

Below are two pictures; one is viewed under "normal vision" and the other one is viewed under "cataract vision ".

Image viewed under normal vision-----Image viewed with someone who has a cataract



Cataracts are treated with surgery. Your eye care professional will remove your clouded lens and, usually replace it with a clear, plastic lens. Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision.

Cataracts cannot be cured with medications, dietary supplements, exercise or optical devices. In the early stages of a cataract when symptoms are mild, a good understanding of the condition and a willingness to adjust your lifestyle can help.


Accessibility | Privacy | ASU Disclaimer This site was created by Theresa Herro in fulfillment of requirements for the course CSS 335: Latino Health Issues taught by Dr. Szkupinski Quiroga at Arizona State University, Spring 2006.