Cataracts are the clouding of your eye’s natural lens. A cataract begins when proteins in the eye clump together and block the lens from sending clear images to the retina. In turn, this effect causes the typical cataract symptoms such as blurry vision, glare, poor night vision, double vision, faded colors, or frequent changes in prescription lenses. Cataracts are common in older people, and over half of the people in the U.S. have cataracts or have gone through cataract surgery by the time they’re 80 years old.
The three primary types of age-related cataracts are nuclear sclerotic, cortical, and posterior subcapsular. You can develop one or a combination of any of these three types of cataracts as you age, but cataract surgery can help.
Nuclear Sclerotic Cataracts
The most common type of age-related cataracts are caused by the gradual hardening and yellowing of the natural lens over time. It can take several years for nuclear sclerotic cataracts to affect vision. As the condition progresses, it affects the eye’s ability to focus. Sometimes, the developing nuclear cataract may temporarily improve close-up vision which is a symptom called ‘second sight’. That improvement is not permanent.
“Cortical” refers to the outer layer of something. With cataracts, it refers to a wedge shape which creates changes in the water content of the lens’ fibers. Cortical cataracts create clefts and fissures in patterns like the spokes of a wheel as well as cloudy areas. These cloudy areas cause light to scatter as it enters the eye, causing blurred vision and glare, as well as issues with depth and color perception. People with diabetes are at special risk for developing cortical cataracts.
Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts
Symptoms of subcapsular cataracts include halos, glare around lights, and trouble seeing while reading. Often, the symptoms start as a small cloudy or opaque area on the back surface or ‘posterior’ side of the lens. These cataracts are called subcapsular because they form beneath the lens capsule, the small sac or membrane that encloses the lens and keeps it in place. This form of cataract is more common to people who use steroids, have diabetes, or struggle with extreme nearsightedness. These cataracts are the most rapidly developing cataracts and symptoms can become noticeable within months.
Cataract surgery involves removing the lens of the affected eye and replacing it with an artificial lens. The surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist on an outpatient basis. Traditionally, cataract surgery relies on ultrasound energy or laser-assisted technology to remove the cloudy lens. Regardless of which method is used, cataract surgery is very common and is considered a safe procedure.
Almost everyone who has cataract surgery will be given an artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL. The lens requires absolutely no care as it becomes a permanent part of your eye. You won’t be able to either see or feel the lens. The lens itself is selected before your procedure by your ophthalmologist, based on a number of measurements they take during your evaluation. The IOL is much like a contact lens in that it contains a prescription power meant to correct your vision. You may still need to wear glasses for distance or near activities but your overall vision will be greatly improved.
Rather than suffer from bad vision, or be at risk for going blind, join the 2 million-plus people each year who have cataract surgery. Enjoy brand new vision and less dependence on glasses or contact lenses. If you suspect you be developing a cataract, contact us today. At New Vision Eye Center, we provide world-class eye care and have a surgical team devoted entirely to ophthalmology.