Cataract: Causes, Symptoms, and Prevention 

What is Cataract?

Cataract is a condition in which a clouding layer develops in the eye’s natural crystalline lens which is found behind the iris. Cataracts are the highest cause of vision loss for populations over the age of 40.

What are the different types of Cataract?

A subcapsular cataract forms behind the lens. It is common with people who are taking steroid medications and the diabetic population.

A nuclear cataract occurs in the nucleus of the lens. This is the form of cataract that is profoundly associated with aging.

A cortical cataract begins at the edges of the lens progressing to the nucleus. It is a white wedge-like opacity.

cataract

Symptoms of cataracts

Cataracts set out small with little effect on eyesight. With time, you may notice gradual blurring and reduction in contrast sensitivity. It can make the light from the sun too glaring.   You may also notice that oncoming headlights at night are becoming more glaring than usual. Some colours might not look as bright as they should.  The symptom of cataract will largely depend on its type. The nuclear cataract is the most surprising of all since it can bring short-lived improvement on the near vision.

Causes of cataracts

Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. The eye lens functions as the camera lens and focuses light to the retina. It adjusts the eye focus for a clear vision of near and distant vision. Lenses are made of water and protein. As one ages, the protein may clump together and form a cloud on a small section of the lens. The small cataract may grow larger over time, making it harder to see clearly.

In addition to age, other risk factors that can cause cataract include:

 UV light

 Smoking

 Long-term use of corticosteroids

 Eye injury or inflammation

 Previous eye surgery

 Hormone replacement therapy

 Obesity

 High myopia

 Hypertension

Cataract prevention

Despite controversies about cataract prevention, studies suggest that nutritional supplements may decrease the risk of developing cataracts. Some of the nutrients suggested include  vitamin E, zeaxanthin, and lutein. Antioxidants such as vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce the risk of  developing cataracts.

Extended exposure to Ultraviolet radiation in the form of UVA or UVB causes changes in the pigment and often resulting in the formation of cataracts. This is of major concern in tropical areas where there is high levels of UV exposure throughout the year. It is important for people in such areas to wear sunglasses with high levels of UVA/UVB filtration to reduce the risk of cataract formation.

A thorough comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist can help find out if there is cataract developing. Cataracts can develop fast in a short period or slowly over the years. At the early onset of cataracts, your optometrist may prescribe eyeglasses for sharper and improved vision. At a certain stage cataract becomes visually significant and replacement of spectacle lenses will not help improve vision. At that point cataract surgery is considered as an option.  You may have to be referred to a cataract ophthalmologist for surgery. In most case, patients vision return to normal after the surgery. Your optometrist will also provide post operative care after your cataract surgery.  If you are due for your eye exam or suspect you might be developing cataract call us today to book your appointment or send us an email.