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Cataracts: What You Need to Know

It is important to get checked by your doctor if you think you have a cataract. The reason is it may be a cataract or it may be something else. If you think it's a cataract because your vision is getting blurry, it probably is.

What happens when you have a cataract? 

When you have a cataract, the color of what you're looking at might change or appear different than what it actually is. Things may begin to appear blurry, and you might not be able to see as clearly as you could before. Cataracts can be a problem when you're driving at night, especially when there is a glare. If you've recently been to the doctor to get your eyes checked, and your doctor says your glasses are not the problem, it is possible that you have a cataract which is causing your trouble. It could be that the protein has changed inside the lens inside your eye, and that's what's blocking the vision. In many cases, cataracts must be removed in order for you to return to normal vision and so you can see safely. The best way to find out is to see your eye doctor.

What is a cataract?

A cataract can be defined as clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and pupil. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40, and in addition, cataracts are the principle cause of blindness in the world. Cataracts affect more than 22 million Americans aged 40 and older. A cataract can start out small and have little effect on your vision, slightly blurring your vision. Cataracts can also make light from the sun, a lamp, or car headlights very bright and glaring. Additionally, colors may not appear as bright and vivid as they once did. The type of cataract you have will affect exactly which symptoms you experience and when they will occur.

Types of cataracts 

There are many types of cataracts.

  • A subcapsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens and generally affects people with diabetes or people taking high doses of steroid medications.
  • A nuclear cataract forms deep in the central zone (nucleus) of the lens. Nuclear cataracts are typically associated with aging.
  • A cortical cataract is characterized by white, wedge-like opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the center in a spoke-like fashion. This type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.  

What causes a cataract?

The lens inside the eye is mostly made up of water and protein, arranged in a way that keeps the lens clear and focuses light into the retina for clear vision. As we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract, and over time it will most likely grow larger and cloud more of the lens, in result making it harder to see. While there is controversy over whether cataracts can be prevented or not, a number of studies have shown that certain nutrients and nutritional supplements may reduce your risk of cataracts.

Overall, if you are losing your vision, it is very important to see a doctor to prevent your impairment from worsening and to diagnose the cause of your loss of vision.