IntroductionA cataract is the clouding of the natural crystalline lens inside the eye. The natural lens help to focus light onto the back of the eye (known as the retina). Worldwide, cataracts are the most common cause of blindness. Cataracts typically form in your 50-60s. However, you may not have symptoms for many years. Nearly everyone will develop cataracts as the eyes age.
CausesThere are numerous causes of cataracts, including,
AgeAge is the most common cause of cataracts. Certain cells in the lens help to maintain the lens clarity. Over time, there is a natural degradation of these cells, leading to a cloudy lens.
DiabetesPatients with diabetes tend to form cataracts earlier in life. This is thought to be due to a wider fluctuation in sugar (glucose) levels and deposits of glucose byproducts in diabetics.
Sunlight/radiationUltraviolet light has been demonstrated to lead to cataract formation. There is some evidence suggesting that UV protection with sunglasses can slow the development of cataracts.
Cigarette UseSmokers have a two to three fold risk of developing cataracts compared to non-smokers.
MedicationsMedications, especially steroids, can increase the risk of cataract formation. Other medications associated with cataracts are antipsychotic drugs and anticholinesterases.
TraumaSevere head or eye trauma can cause swelling of the lens cells that leads to a cataract.
Ocular diseasesCataracts have a greater chance of forming in patients with uveitis or iritis (inflammation in the eye).
Systemic diseasesCataracts are associated with systemic diseases such as Wilson disease, myotonic dystrophy, Down syndrome, and atopic dermatitis.
GeneticsGenetics has been shown to play a role in cataract formation. If your parent needed cataract surgery earlier in life (40s), you may need surgery earlier in life as well.
SymptomsIf you have mild or early cataracts, you may not experience any symptoms. However, as the cataract becomes more dense and cloudy, you may notice blurry vision for the distance and near. Your doctor may not be able to correct your vision with glasses or contact lens.
TypesThere are three main types of cataracts.
Nuclear cataracts typically blur your distance vision. Posterior subcapsular cataracts lead to blurred vision as well as significant glare symptoms. Cortical cataracts usually cause problems with glare.
DiagnosisIf you believe you are experiencing symptoms from cataracts, you should see an ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye examination.
If you have normal vision, your vision will be recorded as 20/20. If you have abnormal vision, the second number (or the denominator) will increase. For instance, if your vision is 20/60, you can only see at 20 feet what a normal eye should be able to see from 60 feet away.If you complain of glare symptoms, your examination may involve the use of bright lights to determine if your vision deteriorates.