A cataract is an opaqueness of the eye’s lens. There is a clouding effect that can make it difficult for light to pass through. This causes blurred or near-sighted vision. Progression of a cataract can result in severe vision loss or total blindness. A medical professional may suggest cataract surgery before clouding becomes unmanageable. During surgery, a medical specialist will remove the natural lens of the eye, also known as the crystalline lens. The natural lens is exchanged with a synthetic lens to restore lens transparency.
Types of Cataracts
The most common types of cataracts are:
Congenital or Infantile Cataracts
These may occur any time during child birth or an infant’s first year of life. Congenital cataracts can progress quickly and cause permanent damage for the young child’s developing eye. They are dealt with differently than adult cataracts, and require immediate surgical correction.
This type of senile cataract progresses deep into the nucleus, or central area, of the lens. These are the most common form of cataracts. They cause a glare or halo effect around objects. Nuclear cataracts progress slowly, but they eventually require cataract surgery.
When opacity is most prevalent in the lens cortex, or the outer rim of the lens, it is diagnosed as cortical cataracts. They grow inward, closer to the center, mimicking spokes on a wheel. This type of cataract is also a senile cataract, which is associated with aging complications. Cortical cataracts develop slowly and cataract surgery is necessary, but not urgent.
Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts
This form of cataract is similar to a cortical cataract, except they progress more rapidly. Posterior subcapsular cataracts commonly occur in diabetics or people that have taken steroids. Adult patients of any age can experience a posterior subcapsular cataract, but symptoms usually do not present until the condition has matured. This makes surgery more urgent than other adult cataracts.
Increased Risk of Cataracts
Selenium has been suggested to counteract the progression of cataract development. However, studies are not yet definitive on this concept. The best thing a patient can do to prevent cataract advancement is to avoid non-genetic risk factors. Cataracts are extremely common. Approximately 70% of people above the age of 75 develop some form of cataract. The close association with age can cause deeper emotional health issues, such as depression, in patients diagnosed with cataracts.
Cataracts can frequently be traced back to:
- Eye inflammation
- Long-term exposure to ultraviolet light
- Exposure to ionizing or infrared radiation
- Eye trauma
- Advanced age
- Genetic factors
- Certain drugs, such as corticosteroids, beta blockers, or quetiapine