What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens that sits in the eye right behind the iris, the colored part of the eye. Typically, cataracts are a result of the normal aging process of the lens. From childhood until the time of cataract surgery, this lens is changing. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss over the age of 40.
Signs and Symptoms of Cataracts
Early on, you may not even know that you have the beginning of a cataract. Often, the first symptoms of a cataract are an increase in nearsightedness called “second sight”. These patients notice that their near vision is actually improving from where it had typically been. This improvement in near vision is short-lived. As the cataract continues to grow, it will cause an overall blurring of one’s vision. Patients will also develop glare and halos around streetlights and headlights at night. This is a result of the scattering of light by the cataract. One’s perception of colors will also change as a cataract progresses. Colors will be less bright and may have a brownish hue.
3 Main Types of Cataracts
• Nuclear Cataract: This is a generalized clouding of the central portion of the natural lens, the nucleus. It is typically a response of the normal aging process.
• Cortical Cataract: This is type of cataract forms in the cortex of the natural lens. This is the area that surrounds the nucleus. It will often begin in the periphery and work its way to the center as it progresses. It will often have a wedge-like or spoke-like appearance.
• Subcapsular Cataract: This type of cataract forms on the back surface of the lens. It has a granular appearance on the inside of the lens capsule, which is the tissue that surrounds the natural lens. This type of cataract can form due to the use of certain medications such as steroids. It can also progress more quickly than the other types of cataracts.
Causes of Cataracts Beyond Simply Aging
• Ultraviolet light
• Eye Injury
• Previous Eye Surgery
• Certain Medications
Can Cataracts be Prevented?
Although cataracts likely cannot be prevented, there are things that can be done to slow or delay their development. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to be protective in clinical studies. Not smoking is also helpful in slowing the development of cataracts. Another useful measure is wearing sunglasses and a brimmed hat to protect oneself from ultraviolet radiation.
How are Cataracts Treated?
Cataracts are treated by cataract surgery. This involves the removal of the cloudy lens and replacing it with a lens implant. This is an outpatient procedure, where the patient will arrive for surgery in the morning or afternoon and go home that same day. There are potentially choices as to what type of lens implant is used to correct one’s vision after cataract surgery. For an in depth analysis of the different type of lens that are available see this previous blog from Summit Eye Center: https://www.summiteyekc.com/blog/cataracts-now-my-doctor-discussed-lens-options-help.