A cataract is a clouding (loss of clarity) of the natural crystalline lens of your eye, which is found behind the iris and the pupil. The cataract will cause blurry, dim, foggy and sometimes double vision and can occur in either eye or both. Cataracts cause more vision problems worldwide than any other eye condition. Symptoms of developing cataracts are glare from light sources (sun, lamps, headlights) halos, changes in color perception, hazy vision and increase in nearsighted vision.
Three most common types of cataracts are:
- Posterior Subcapsular (PSC) cataract which occurs in the back of your natural lens. As they form they impede the path of light as it travels back to the retina. The PSC cataract develops quicker than other forms. Diabetics and individuals on chronic steroid medication are at higher risk of developing this type of cataract.
- Nuclear Sclerotic cataract occurs in the central zone (the nucleus) of your natural lens. Aging puts you at risk to develop this type of cataract. Nuclear cataracts are the most common and can initially improve your near vision, which is short lived. They then will cause a darkening and hardening of the natural lens.
- Cortical cataracts occur first in the periphery of your natural lens. They are white wedge opacities that work their way to the center of the natural lens cortex that surrounds the nucleus, the most common symptom is glare and cause difficulty in both distance and near vision.
Other types of cataracts include:
- Congenital cataracts are formed at birth and may be due to genetics or illness during pregnancy. When these cataracts are off center they may not need to be removed, however if they block vision it becomes necessary, as they will impair the ability of the child to develop functional vision.
- Anterior Subcapsular cataracts occur at the most forward part of the natural lens capsule. Inflammation/injury and atopic dermatitis causing swelling can be the source of their development.
- Traumatic cataract from an injury /blunt trauma penetration of the eye. These cataracts can develop shortly after the insult or may take years to develop.
- Zonular cataracts generally appear in younger children, and appear as white dots in center of the natural lens eventually taking on a Y appearance.
- Polar Anterior/Posterior cataracts, generally the anterior form as white dots and Posterior are commonly genetic. These cataracts usually do not need to be removed as they typically don’t affect vision.
Factors that contribute to developing cataracts: Diabetes, hypertension, smoking, eye injury/inflammation, high myopia (nearsightedness), family history, chronic corticosteroid treatment, advancing age, statins and hormones.
Studies have shown that you may reduce the risk of cataracts by sun protection that blocks UV radiation, antioxidant vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin E and carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin.
By Jack Sol Mermelstein, O.D., of Resident Eye Care Associates, LLC
Jack Sol Mermelstein, O.D. is the optometric director of Resident Eye Care Associates, LLC, along with Robert Sholomon, O.D..