As we age, the proteins inside the lens of your eye can clump together, turning the lens from clear to cloudy. Certain behaviors like overexposure in the sun without eye protection, smoking, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, or use of steroid medications may put you at higher risk for a cataract (or cataracts) to develop.
Over 20 million Americans over the age of 40 have cataracts in one or both eyes, and 6 million have had corrective surgery. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your eye doctor immediately.
What are Cataracts?
Cataracts are when clouding occurs in the lens of the eye. This interferes with light reaching the retina, potentially causing blurry vision and other vision problems. The mechanics are explained below.
The lens is the clearer part of the eye that’s located behind the iris and pupil. It helps focus light onto the retina, which allows us to see clearly. The retina then converts light to electrical signals for the brain to decode into images. When a cataract begins to form and the lens is no longer clear, visual disturbances occur.
What are the Types of Cataracts?
The three main types of cataracts are as follows:
A subcapsular cataract, commonly seen among people with diabetes or those taking high doses of steroid medications, occur at the back of the lens.
A nuclear cataract, commonly associated with aging, develops deep in the nucleus of the lens.
A cortical cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which surrounds the central nucleus. It is characterized by white, wedge-like opacities that develop in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the center.
7 Common Symptoms of Developing Cataracts
Blurry Vision. When the proteins in your eyes clump together, it can cause blurry vision and glare issues, making it difficult to see at night. This effect will likely increase over time.
Color Distortion. As the cataract progresses, the lens takes on a yellow or brown tint. This decreases the amount of light that can reach the retina and distorts color perception. This tint degrades your ability to detect the blue end of the color spectrum.
Poor Night Vision. As cataracts become more advanced, your vision can begin to become darker with a yellow or brown tint. This makes it harder to distinguish lighting and affects night vision. If you suspect you have cataracts, be very careful at night and avoid driving when your vision is compromised.
Halo Effect. The clouding of the lens can result in diffraction of light entering the eye. This can cause a “halo effect” to appear around light sources, creating rings around every light and sometimes in a variety of colors. Other eye conditions that can cause halos around lights include swelling of the cornea, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and strokes.
New Prescription. If you find yourself frequently needing to renew stronger prescription for your glasses or contacts, you many have cataracts. If your eyesight is changing rapidly, see an eye doctor.
Double Vision. Diffraction from the lens clouding in a cataract can lead you to see two or more images of a single object. While many things can cause double vision — brain tumor, corneal swelling, multiple sclerosis, stroke, or cataracts, double vision can be a sign of serious health concerns. As the cataract grows larger, this effect may go away.
Light Sensitivity. The glare of bright lights can be painful for many people with cataracts, especially those with posterior subcapsular cataracts. Light sensitivity is a strong early symptom of subcapsular cataracts, and can be used to diagnose cataract before vision changes become more advanced.
What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts develop when proteins in a small area of the lens clump together, clouding that area of the lens. While it is most commonly associated to aging, your risk of getting a cataract increases with each decade after the age of 40. The following may increase your risk of developing cataracts or speed their formation:
- Long-term use of corticosteroids
- Inflammation of the eye
- Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun
- A family history of cataracts
- Alcohol consumption
- Nutritional deficiencies, such as low intake of antioxidants
Cataracts may also develop after surgery for other eye disorders such as glaucoma, an eye injury, or exposure to radiation.
Schedule a Consultation
Join us at Advanced Eye Medical for an expert consultation. We will discuss and review your options in order to help you find the best way to treat your cataracts.