A study says that the risk of cataracts increases with each decade of life starting around age 40. So, if you’re above 40 and experience cloudy vision, you might have a cataract in one or both of your eyes.
But what is a cataract of the eye? Cataract definition: A cataract is a common eye condition identified by a dense, cloudy area in your eye. When proteins in your eye clump, they cover the lens in your eye. It can make your vision blurry.
Cataracts develop slowly early on.
If the cataract starts interfering with your day-to-day activities like reading or driving, you may need surgery. Cataract surgery is a safe option to remove the cataract and has a high success rate.
In this article, we’re going to cover everything that you need to know about cataracts – right from symptoms to prevention and treatment. We’ll also discuss the 9 common types of this condition, so stay tuned!
How Does A Cataract Form?
The human eye has a colored iris behind the lens. The light passes through the lens of your eye focusing onto the retina, and creating clear, sharp images. The retina is the same as a film in a camera – the light-sensitive surface in your eye.
Your eyes’ lenses become more rigid, opaque, and thicker as they age. In addition to aging, other health conditions can degrade proteins in lenses and cause clumping, thereby clouding them.
With the progression of the cataract, the clouding becomes denser. This prevents sharp images from reaching your retina by scattering and blocking light from passing through the lens. That’s when you experience blurry vision.
What Causes A Cataract In The Eye?
The exact reason as to what causes a cataract is still unknown. However, scientists know a few cataract causes that make cataracts develop at a faster rate.
- Long-term use of steroids.
- Inherited genetic disorders.
- UV radiation.
- Radiation therapy.
- Overproduction of oxidants – altered oxygen molecules that can affect eye health.
- Radiation therapy.
- Other serious eye disorders.
What Are The 9 Types Of Cataract In The Eye?
Cataract types include:
- Age-related cataract
The most common type of cataract is age-related cataract. With age, the natural changes in the lens of your eye can cause a cataract to develop.
Age-related cataract tops for causing eye problems worldwide.
You’re more likely to get age-related cataracts if you have a family history of cataracts.
- Radiation cataract
Certain types of radiation like UV and radiation from cancer therapy can also cause cataracts in the eye.
Your lens is the most radiosensitive structure of the eye. The radiation causes the eye lens to become increasingly opaque, leading to clouding of the lens.
- Traumatic cataract
Traumatic cataract occurs when you experience serious eye injuries. Eye injuries can damage your lens and can cause a cataract to develop.
According to a WHO program, about 55 million people worldwide suffer from eye injuries and 1.6 million people have lost their vision due to eye injuries.
Causes of traumatic cataracts include:
- Ocular trauma (Eye injury).
- Electric shock.
- Chemical burns.
4. Pediatric cataract
A pediatric cataract is also known as a congenital cataract and happens to children.
Pediatric cataracts are rare and inherited. Complications during pregnancy or illnesses like eye tumors during childhood can lead to pediatric cataracts.
Some pediatric cataracts won’t affect your child’s vision and it is possible to remove them soon after detection.
5. Nuclear cataracts
When the center of your eye starts to get yellow and cloudy, it leads to a nuclear cataract. At night, you may have difficulty seeing small details, the colors may become less vivid, and you may start seeing halos around bright objects.
It can also affect your distant vision. If you find it difficult to drive or read things from a distance, you might have a nuclear cataract.
6. Brunescent cataracts
Brunescent cataract is a complication of nuclear cataracts. If the nuclear cataract is untreated, it can become harder and brown.
If you have a brunescent cataract, you may find it difficult to distinguish between colors, especially at the blue end of the visible light spectrum.
7. Diabetic snowflake cataracts
Type 1 diabetic patients often develop a type of cataract known as snowflake cataract, which tends to progress rapidly.
People with very elevated levels of blood sugar are at high risk.
These cataracts are gray or white deposits that progressively cover the entire lens.
According to a study, Cataract in diabetic patients is a major cause of blindness in developed and developing countries.
8. Cortical cataracts
Your lens has a protective layer called the cortex that protects them from damage. You develop cortical cataracts when the cortex (the outer layer) starts getting cloudy.
Initially, the damage looks like white triangles pointing toward your iris. With growth, they scatter light.
With this condition, glare is the most common symptom. Driving at night can be difficult. You might also notice your vision is hazy, as though you are looking through a cloud. When colors are similar or objects are far away, it may be difficult to distinguish them.
9. Secondary cataract
A secondary cataract can develop after cataract surgery, causing the vision to become cloudy again.
Cataract surgery involves removing the opaque lens that resides in a capsule of your eye and replacing it with another lens. This capsule can become opaque months or years after the cataract surgery, leading to a secondary cataract.
Some common symptoms of cataracts include:
- Blurry, cloudy, or foggy vision.
- Decreased vision at night.
- Seeing halos.
- Double vision.
- Fading of colors.
- Increased sensitivity to glare and light.
- Need to change your eye prescription frequently.
- Needing brighter light to view objects.
How Is A Cataract Diagnosed?
To diagnose a cataract, your doctor will first review your symptoms, medical history, and conduct an eye exam. 3 common types of eye exams include:
- Visual acuity test.
Visual acuity test includes reading a chart with letters that progressively become smaller. Your doctor will ask you to read the letters with one eye while covering the other eye.
This test provides information about how sharp your vision is. At the end of the exam, your doctor will conclude whether you have 20/20 (normal) vision or if you show any signs of impairment.
- Retinal test
To undergo this exam, your doctor will first place eye drops to widen the pupil. This will help the doctor to get a proper view of the retina (present at the back of your eye).
After that, using a device called an ophthalmoscope, the doctor will check your retina for any signs of a cataract.
- Slit-lamp examination
During slit-lamp examination, the doctor observes small changes occurring inside your eye. It uses a special kind of microscope to view the lens, cornea, and iris of your eye.
Another name for this microscope is a slit lamp because it uses a thin stream of light, a slit, to view these structures. It makes it easier to notice any changes in the eye.
Cataract Vs Glaucoma
Cataract and Glaucoma are both debilitating eye disorders. Although they have certain similarities, they are still different from each other.
The main difference between cataracts and glaucoma is the cause.
- A cataract develops when there is an accumulation of proteins in the eye.
- Glaucoma is a result of fluid buildup in the eye.
- It is possible to get your vision back after undergoing treatment for cataracts.
- It is nearly impossible to bring your vision back after undergoing treatment for glaucoma.
Cataracts and glaucoma can lead to one another.
Cataract Treatment Through Surgery
- What is cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is the most common treatment available to remove cataracts in your eye.
Cataract surgery may be a good option if it has started to affect your daily activities, reading or driving at night.
- How is cataract surgery done?
The main principle behind cataract removal is replacing your opaque eye lens with a new lens.
An artificial lens called an intraocular lens is placed at the same position as your natural eye lens to correct your vision.
- Phacoemulsification – This is a type of procedure that uses ultrasound waves to break the defective lens.
- Extracapsular surgery – Involves making a sharp incision in the cornea to remove the cloudy lens.
Cataract eye surgery is a safe procedure but it has a few side effects like bleeding and infection, but this is rare. Your doctor may send you home the same day as your surgery. Cataract surgery recovery time is between 4-6 weeks.
To prevent cataract development:
- Protect yourself from direct sunlight.
- Keep your blood sugar levels in control.
- Quit smoking.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Reduce exposure to blue light
As you now know, a cataract is an eye disorder that causes vision impairment. Leading an unhealthy lifestyle can put you at greater risk of developing a cataract. If you experience cloudy vision and other eye problems, consult your doctor immediately.
The doctor will carry out a couple of diagnostic tests and will suggest the treatment if you’re diagnosed with a cataract.
Cataract surgery is the best way to remove cataracts and fix your vision. It has very low side effects and a high success rate.
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