Most people will develop some degree of cataracts as they age. It’s part of the aging process. Around the age of 40 our eyes begin to change and natural proteins in our eye lenses begin to break down which can cause them to become cloudy which produces blurrier, hazier, and less colorful vision. By 60 many people have at least some clouding in their lenses, though it may be several years until they experience vision problems. By 80 many people have or have had cataracts.
If your parents had cataracts, you are more likely to develop them too. Cataracts can also develop due to diabetes, eye injuries or surgeries, excessive sun exposure, over a prolonged time, and the use of certain medications such as corticosteroids. Habits such as smoking and excessive drinking can also put you at higher risk for cataracts. While age-related cataracts often develop gradually, others may occur more rapidly.
Common Types of Cataracts?
Cataracts can develop in certain areas of the lens and are named accordingly:
- Nuclear cataracts develop in the center of the lens. The nucleus often darkens from clear to yellow or brown.
- Cortical cataracts develop on the lens layer surrounding the nucleus and often look like a spoke or a wedge.
- Posterior capsular cataracts develop in the lens’s back outer layer and often develop more rapidly than the other two.
People with a mild cataract case may not notice much, if any changes to their vision.
Symptoms of Cataracts
- Blurry vision
- Seeing double (seeing double can be caused by other conditions and should be evaluated by a professional)
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Difficulty reading
- Bright colors appear faded or yellowed
- Halos around lights
- Frequent prescription changes
You can develop cataracts in one eye or both; though fortunately a cataract cannot spread from one eye to the other.
Surgery is the predominant way of addressing a severe cataract. During the surgery, the doctor removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a clear, artificial one, in almost all cases. Once a cataract interferes with your ability to do everyday activities, such as reading, driving, or watching TV, your eye care provider may recommend surgery.
If the cataract is too mild to operate on and has not caused significant vision loss, anti-glare coatings on eyeglass lenses can be helpful to mitigate symptoms.
Reduce the Risk of Cataracts
- Protect your eyes from sunlight. Wear sunglasses that block UV rays and eyeglasses with a clear anti-UV coating.
- Do not smoke, or stop smoking
- Maintain a healthy diet— eye-friendly nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc can reduce the risk of cataracts and other eye diseases
- Receive regular eye examinations by an eye care professional
1. N.A. “Cataract” American Optometric Association. (https://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/cataract) Last accessed 6/5/2020
2. Kierstan Boyd. “What Are Cataracts?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, Oct. 1, 2019. (https://www.aao.org/eye-health/diseases/what-are-cataracts) Last accessed 6/5/2020
3. N.A. “At a glance: Cataracts.” National Eye Institute, 8/3/2019. (https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/cataracts) Last accessed 6/5/2020