Announcing our partnership with The Eye Institute! Learn More

November 04, 2019

Cataracts:  A Quick Overview Article.  

{For our in-depth article about Cataracts (with pictures) click here.}

If everything hurts and you feel like you’re dying, or you have at least one bottle of motrin floating around in your purse or glove compartment, cataracts might be something you need to look into before you start shopping for headstones. Just kidding, you don’t actually have to have Grandma’s blue hair or one foot in the grave to experience cataracts; even babies can be diagnosed with them! Although most patients don’t become aware of them until around the age of 60, cataracts can start developing as early as 40-years-old in the form of DLS, or Dysfunctional Lens Syndrome. Don’t panic! DLS might sound bad, but it’s nothing more than the natural aging process of your eye’s internal lens, which starts out clear and becomes cloudier over time. DLS is progressive, meaning it eventually turns into cataracts, a painless condition that can eventually lead to blindness without surgery. Infact, cataract is the leading cause of blindness according to the World Health Organization. Ruh-roh. Fortunately, in the United States treatment is widely available and more than half of all Americans have had cataract surgery by the time they reach 80.

Types Of Cataracts And Their Symptoms

Cataract symptoms include, but are not limited to, blurry vision, seeing double, halo sightings (not the angelic kind), poor night vision, faded color vision, and light sensitivity. There are traumatic cataracts, congenital cataracts, diabetic cataracts and three different types of age-related cataracts: nuclear sclerotic, cortical, and posterior subcapsular. The type of symptoms and how quickly they occur depends entirely on the type of cataract you have. The most common type of cataract is nuclear, which refers to the gradual hardening and clouding of the center of the lens, called the nucleus. Interestingly, when this type of cataract first appears, it can bring about something called “second sight.” No, this doesn’t mean you should go and buy a crystal ball, but it does temporarily improve your vision. Weird, I know. Cortical cataracts develop in the lens cortex, or the outside edge of the lens, which can cause blurred vision, glare, etc. Posterior subcapsular cataracts begin in the back surface of the lens beneath the lens capsule (hence the “posterior”), and frequently interfere with reading and often causes halos and glare. Unlike cortical cataracts, posterior cataracts develop quickly and so do the symptoms.

Besides The Olds, Who Is At Risk?

Although age is the most common risk factor for cataracts, it’s certainly not the only one (sorry, young people). Diabetes, high blood pressure, prior eye injuries, long-term steroid use, alcoholism, obesity, smoking, radiation, exposure to contaminants and spending too much time in unprotected sunlight can all increase your likelihood of developing cataracts. Interestingly, cataracts are more common in people who live within close proximity to the equator, thanks to their increased exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. Planning on retiring to Costa Rica, Janet? THINK AGAIN (just kidding, you probably should, it’s beautiful down there).

Diagnosis And Treatment For Cataracts

It might be tempting, but don’t try to diagnose your grandmother (or yourself) with cataracts via the interwebs, mmkay? Only an eye doctor can diagnose cataracts after a comprehensive eye exam in which they dilate your pupil using their secret powers eye drops and check out your eye with a slip-lamp biomicroscope. With a slip-lamp exam, eye doctors use an intense line (or slit) of light to illuminate your eye structures so they can easily detect any abnormalities. After they have a good look, they will test to see if your eyesight can be improved with a new pair of glasses. If your vision can’t be fixed with an updated prescription, I guess you’re going blind don’t freak out. Cataracts will slowly cloud your vision, but when untreated cataracts begin to interfere with your daily life, it’s time to have them surgically removed. During surgery, your clouded lens is removed and replaced with a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL), or an artificial replacement for the lens of the eye made out of plastic, silicone or acrylic.

Worried You Have Cataracts?

Still have questions? Check out our in-depth write up (with pictures) on Cataracts. If you’re worried that you might have a cataract, the only way to get some peace of mind is by scheduling an appointment as soon as possible. Trust me, no one wants to see your white, cloudy eyes unless you’re using costume contacts.