Truth be told, there is no reason to pair “wisdom” and “cataracts” other than the fact that they are both more likely to be found in a generation that was alive during the Eisenhower administration. It just seemed like this title was more catchy than my original, “The Inevitability of Cataracts.” The point is the same in either case, the more years you live, the more likely you are to develop cataracts.
The reason that I started with the inevitability idea to begin with is that cataracts are one of the few medical conditions that really are a near guarantee with age. This is because of the way the lens inside the eye is designed. It continues to grow with age, and since it’s in a closed capsule the new layers that are forming in the lens each year compress the older ones deeper down.
This is the reason that no person has an eye that can see both distance and near after a certain age (usually between 42 and 48). And it is also the reason that the lens develops a yellow tint to it in the 40s that becomes increasingly cloudy over time. The light that once travelled effortlessly through the lens is filtered to a greater degree every year with every new layer.
When people over the age of 50 begin to feel that they need more light to read, it is a step on the path towards the lens getting cloudy enough that it will earn the title of cataract. The super great news is that we can fix these lenses and get rid of glasses for reading and for distance at age 50 or at age 90, depending on when your wisdom is telling you to move ahead with the cure.