Cataracts are a degenerative disorder that causes one or both of your eyes’ lenses to become cloudy. They impair your vision and can lead to blindness if not appropriately addressed. Cataracts can be caused by aging, long-term UV exposure from sunlight, or diabetes.
Cataracts develop slowly over time, and symptoms may only begin to show around age 40 for most people. If you’re beginning to notice cloudiness or unclear vision, it may be cataracts. Below we discuss types of cataracts and what symptoms to look out for.
Types of Cataracts
It is estimated more than 24.4 million Americans aged 40 and older have cataracts. By age 75, almost half of all Americans have some form of visual disability due to cataracts. Although they’re usually not painful, they must be treated because they will gradually affect your eyesight as the condition worsens.
There are four main types of cataracts.
1. Nuclear Cataracts
A nuclear cataract is the most common type of cataract, beginning with a gradual hardening and yellowing of the central zone of the lens also known as the nucleus. Over time, this hardening and yellowing will expand to the other layers of the lens.
As this type of cataract progresses, it changes the eye’s ability to focus and close-up vision (for reading or other types of close work) may temporarily improve. This symptom is referred to as second sight, but the vision improvement it produces is not permanent.
A nuclear sclerotic cataract progresses slowly and may take several years of gradual development before it begins to affect vision.
2. Cortical Cataracts
A cortical cataract forms in the shell layer of the lens known as the cortex and gradually extends its “spokes” from the outside of the lens to the center. These fissures can cause the light that enters the eye to scatter, creating problems with blurred vision, glare, contrast and depth perception. People with diabetes are at risk for developing cortical cataracts.
3. Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts
Primarily affecting one’s reading and night vision, this type of cataract begins as a small opaque or cloudy area on the posterior (back surface) of the lens. It is called subcapsular because it forms beneath the lens capsule which is a small sac or membrane that encloses the lens and holds it in place.
Subcapsular cataracts can interfere with reading and create halo effects and glare around lights. People who use steroids or have diabetes, extreme nearsightedness, and/or retinitis pigmentosa may develop this type of cataract. Subcapsular cataracts can develop rapidly and symptoms can become noticeable within months.
4. Congenital Cataracts
These are rare, but they can also happen to anyone. They’re when your lens develops abnormally before birth or during childhood. The lens of the eye is normally clear. It focuses light that comes into the eye onto the retina. Cataract develops because the lens is positioned incorrectly.
Symptoms to Look For
Cataracts can have a variety of symptoms depending on their severity. As cataracts develop, you may experience the following:
- Blurry Vision – the first sign you might see is something out of place in your vision. This could mean the appearance of halos around objects like street lamps, lights, signs, and buildings. You may also notice that your vision suddenly seems darker than before, even in bright light.
- Double Vision – this occurs when you have a cataract that has simultaneously affected both eyes’ lenses. The image from each eye is often out of alignment, so both images appear upside down or reversed.
- Increased light and glare sensitivity – your eyes may be more light-sensitive. This could mean you have to shield them from the sun when you go out or turn off any bright lights you have in your home.
- Limited night vision – it can be difficult to see in the dark with cataracts. You can have trouble driving at night, reading street signs, and identifying objects.
- Loss of peripheral vision – this usually occurs when your cataract has become severe enough to affect both eyes at once and impair your field of view. Objects that are close by appear to be farther away, or vice versa.
Schedule an Appointment
If you experience these symptoms, Campus Eye Group can help. Our knowledgeable ophthalmologists can determine whether cataracts are impacting your vision and how they can be removed. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.