Cataracts are one of the most common eye conditions and a leading cause of blindness. You’ve likely heard of it before, and you may even have family members who have it, but you’ll want to start thinking about cataracts more as you get older.
Cataracts are a natural part of aging, and everyone will develop some form of cataracts during their life. However, aging isn’t the only factor in cataract development, which means there are steps you can take to protect your vision.
What are the Types of Cataracts?
Cataracts are caused by the gradual clouding of your eye’s lens, located behind your cornea and pupil. Since the lens is responsible for focusing light onto the back of your eye, it can have mild to severe effects on your vision when it becomes cloudy.
Cataracts can occur in one or both eyes and typically come in 5 different types:
- Age-related cataracts: These are the most common type of cataracts and develop due to natural changes in your eyes.
- Traumatic cataracts: A serious eye injury could result in cataracts forming immediately or years later.
- Radiation cataracts: Certain types of radiation can cause cataracts to develop. This radiation can include UV light from the sun or cancer treatments.
- Pediatric cataracts: Cataracts in children are rare and tend to be genetic. However, they can also occur due to complications during pregnancy or illness.
- Secondary cataracts: These cataracts can occur after a cataract surgery and are a type of scar tissue. While 2 out of 5 people might develop these secondary cataracts after surgery, they can be treated simply and painlessly with a laser.
The severity of cataracts can also depend on where cataracts form:
- Nuclear cataracts develop in the center of the lens and typically turn the lens yellow and further blur your vision.
- Cortical cataracts occur as white wedges around the outer edge of the lens.
- Posterior subcapsular cataracts form at the back of the lens and typically progress faster than other types.
What Causes Cataracts?
For the most part, normal changes in your eye cause cataracts as you age. In a young, healthy eye, the lens is clear. However, over time the proteins and fibers naturally present in our lens break down, creating that telltale cloudiness cataracts are known for.
Other factors than aging can result in cataracts or cause cataracts to develop early. Some of the risk factors that can increase your chances of cataracts are:
- Health problems such as diabetes
- Alcohol overconsumption
- An eye injury
- Spending time in the sun without eye protection
- A family history of cataracts
- Steroids, such as the type present in certain medicines.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Since cataracts progress gradually, you might not notice any signs or symptoms at the beginning. But, as the lens becomes more cloudy, it’ll become difficult to ignore. Some symptoms you might notice are:
- Vision that is cloudy or blurry
- Difficulty with night vision
- Light sensitivity
- Trouble reading or working at low-light
- Seeing “halos” around lights
- Frequent prescription changes
- Colors appear faded (including “yellowing”)
- Double vision
Keeping Cataracts Under Control
While cataracts are natural, they’re also treatable. An optometrist will check for cataracts, as well as other eye conditions, during a dilated eye exam. While eyeglasses and contact lenses might be able to fix any refractive errors caused by cataracts, there are steps you can take to protect your eyes:
- Wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim when out in the sun
- Quitting smoking
- Protecting your eyes from injury with protective eyewear
- Using brighter lights when working or reading
- Adding eye-healthy foods to your diet, such as nuts, whole grains, leafy greens, and fruits rich in antioxidants
These precautions might be able to slow or halt cataracts from progressing. However, if your cataracts get in the way of everyday activities, the only solution might be cataract surgery. This surgery is a generally safe and effective procedure in which your eye doctor will remove the clouded lens. A clear artificial lens is put in its place.
Waiting to have cataract surgery generally won’t harm your eye. If you’re still able to see quite well, you can take your time to consider your options. Many people with cataracts don’t require surgery at all.
Keeping an Eye on Your Eye Health
Chances are you will develop some level of cataracts at some point in your life. It’s a natural part of aging, but by taking certain precautions, you can reduce their severity. Eat healthily, wear sunglasses outside, and have regular eye exams.
Eye examinations are not only crucial for detecting cataracts but for diagnosing many eye problems while they’re in their early stages. If you think you might have cataracts, book an appointment with Griffin Optometric Group in Talega and discover our extraordinary level of care for your vision health.