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A cataract is the actual lens inside of the eye getting cloudy. When we are young the lens of the eye is typically clear and most people have clear vision when we are young, though we might need glasses or contacts to see optimally, even through the clear lens of the eye. If the lens begins to become cloudy, this will typically begin to affect our vision at some point.

Patients may describe glare, blurry, hazy, or difficult vision. We may need better lighting to read as cataracts progress. Glare with viewing headlights and street lights at night is common as cataracts start to progress.  Common symptoms of cataracts include:

Blurring of vision

Glare, or light sensitivity

Poor night vision

Double vision in one eye

Needing brighter light to read

Fading or yellowing of colors

Cause of Cataracts

The cause of cataracts is typically normal aging, though a variety of diseases or health conditions can cause or accelerate cataract formation. By the age of sixty a healthy person will typically have at least the start of cataract formation that I can “see” at their eye examination, even if the cataracts do not affect a person’s actual vision significantly.

Cataract Surgery

In cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed from the eye through a surgical incision. In most cases, the natural lens is replaced with a permanent intraocular lens (IOL) implant.  Specialty IOL’s include multifocal (to eliminate wearing bifocals) and toric IOL’s to correct astigmatism.


Again, if cataracts get blurry enough, the only fix is cataract surgery and usually the patient gets to decide when they want or need cataract surgery. Of course, I am “along for the ride” with the patient regarding the cataracts and will evaluate and advise the patient along the way of cataract progression.

Timing of Cataract Surgery

Cataract Progression


Cataracts usually progress slowly over time, though occasionally can progress more quickly. I tell patients that cataract progression is not under our control and that we are “along for the ride.”   Cataracts are part of normal aging, but the rate of formation varies greatly.


Quality of Vision


Sometimes as cataracts progress we may need to change glasses prescription quicker with cataract progression, though usually cataracts progress slowly and more often do not change the glasses situation with progression. Though there are certain cataract situations that are more unusual or risky and may require surgery sooner, typically the patient with cataracts gets to make the decision of if and when to have cataract surgery based on if and when the patient’s vision is becoming blurry enough to become bothersome and frustrating in real life visual situations.


Currently in the United States the average age for cataract surgery is sixty nine years of age, though I tell patients that no one individually is “exactly average.”


Effect of UV Light


In Colorado, we have more sunny days and higher levels of ultraviolet light, especially in the mountains and at our higher elevation. Ultraviolet light can be damaging to the eye and is hypothesized to increase cataract formation, though this has been difficult to actually prove in scientific studies that we have more cataracts in Colorado, though it certainly “seems to make sense”. I personally like my sunglasses in Colorado and certainly encourage sunglasses outside for my patients.

Chester T. Roe, III, M.D.
Cataract Surgeon
Board Certified Ophthalmologist
4999 E. Kentucky Ave.
Denver, CO 80246