Cataracts, just as death and taxes, are something everyone will experience. Of course if you die at age three, you’ll know nothing of taxes or cataracts for that matter, well, unless you were born with congenital cataracts.

Beyond the rather depressing scenario just described, some will not live long enough for cataracts. For some of us cataracts will become a factor in our mid-sixties, but for others it will take until 85, 98, or maybe 106 years of age. If you are in the latter category and you die at 82 – you’ve been lucky. Well … I think.

Is there anything that “might” retard the development of cataracts regardless of our genetics or situation?

Maybe. Don’t smoke, and sunglasses might have more benefits beyond making you fashionable, with-it, groovy, hip, sophisticated – you know, cool? Of course, if you’re cataract destined and you’ve been born into a smoking society and sunglasses are unavailable, you’re kinda sunk.

Let’s face it. Because so many of our life situations make these things so variable, in all practicality maybe the best way to describe when any of us will develop cataracts is, “God decides.” Cigarettes may be a leading precipitant, but I’ve seen plenty of 80 year old smokers who still see pretty well. Go figure.

Many ask, “How will I know when I might need cataract surgery.”

The short answer is, “You won’t, but I will.”


When a patient says to me, “It seems my vision just isn’t as good as I’d like,” or “I’m starting to avoid driving at night.” I know that in 18 to 24 months they will return and say, “I give up. Let’s do something about these cataracts.”

Of course none of this is in the textbooks, but I’ve done this long enough that  some things just become obvious.



Photo credit: Rakesh Ahuja, MD [CC BY-SA 3.0 (] (cropped)