People often wonder if they will develop a cataract. And the truth is, if you’re around long enough you will get a cataract because everybody gets a cataract. People might say, 'well grandma sees well so maybe she didn't get a cataract.' But grandma might be getting around based on memory more than vision. It is safe to say that everyone will develop cataracts as they get old, and even animals get them too.
It's very important to get checked if you think your vision is getting blurry and you don't know why. Cataracts are the most common type of vision loss in people over the age of 40, and is the principle cause of blindness in the world. There are more cases of cataracts affecting people worldwide than there are of glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy combined.
Types of cataracts
There are three main types of cataracts.
- The first is a subcapsular cataract, which occurs in the back of the lens. People with diabetes and those taking high-dose steroids have the greatest risk of developing a subcapsular cataract.
- The second type of cataract is a nuclear cataract. A nuclear cataract forms deep in the central zone (the nucleus) of the lens, usually associated primarily with aging.
- The third is a cortical cataract, which 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. A cortical cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.
What is a cataract?
A cataract forms on the eye's lens. The lens inside of the eye focuses light into the retina for clear vision. It also adjusts the eye’s focus, allowing us to see things clearly both up close and far away. As we age, proteins may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract, and over time it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens.
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
A cataract usually starts out small and in the beginning will have very little effect on your vision. You may notice your vision is starting to blur slightly, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass. A cataract may make light from the sun or a lamp seem extremely bright or glaring. The type of cataract you have will affect exactly which symptoms you experience and how soon they occur.
Who is at risk for cataracts?
Because cataracts develop as a part of the aging process, everyone is at risk of developing a cataract. With age, our eye’s lens slowly becomes less flexible, less transparent and thicker. As protein in the lens begin to clump together, areas of the lens become cloudy. While everyone is eventually at risk of developing cataracts, there are certain risk factors to be aware of. These risk factors include:
- A family history of cataracts
- Extensive exposure to sunlight
- High blood pressure
- Previous injury or inflammation (swelling) in the eye
- Previous eye surgery
- Long term use of steroid medication
To delay the development of a cataract, avoid extensive exposure to sunlight, avoid use of steroid medications, don't smoke and eat a healthy diet.