Harvard Health Letter

Cataract surgery update: Taking a look at the lenses

New lenses may reduce dependence on glasses, but you may have to pay for it.

Each of our eyes comes equipped with a lens, tucked in just behind the pupil, that focuses light on the retina in the back of the eye. When we're young and spry, our lenses are usually crystal clear. But by the time we're in our 60s or 70s, a lifetime of exposure to light and other factors can "cook" the protein inside the lenses so they cloud up, a little like the white of an egg in a frying pan.

A clouded-up lens is called a cataract. It's one of medicine's metaphorical terms, coined because the whiteness is supposed to be reminiscent of the churned-up water of a cataract, or large waterfall. The connotations might be pleasing, but the reality of viewing the world through one is not: A cataract blurs details, dulls colors, and makes seeing at night difficult.

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