Contrary to popular belief, a cataract is not a “film” over the eye. Rather it is a gradual thickening of the lens that causes the lens to become so clouded that light is either distorted or cannot reach the back of the eye (the retina) for transmission to the brain.
Blurry or dim vision, colours appearing faded, poor night vision, halos appearing around lights, and sensitivity to bright lights can all be symptoms of a cataract. Age-related cataracts develop very slowly and painlessly. In fact, you may not even realize that your vision is changing until you find yourself going to the eye doctor seeking a change in your eyeglass or contact lens prescription.
Many things can cause a cataract to form, the most common being the natural aging process. As the lens of your eye ages, it gradually thickens and yellows, eventually becoming so cloudy that you are said to have a “cataract.” Other diseases, like diabetes and glaucoma, can increase the chances that a person will develop cataracts. Eye injuries and chronic use of corticosteroids can cause cataracts as well. For more information on what causes cataracts.
The lens of the eye can change in multiple ways, all resulting in the condition called a cataract. In general, there are 2 ways a cataract can form—at the nucleus, or center, of the lens, or at the cortex, or shell, of the lens.
Yes, there are several types of cataracts. The different types are defined by which part of the lens they affect. Nuclear cataracts are the most common and usually form as a natural part of the aging process as cells from the lens deposit in the nucleus of the lens. Cortical cataracts are also fairly common and form when the shell, or cortex, of the lens becomes hard.
No. Since developing cataracts is a natural part of the aging process, it is highly unlikely that you can prevent their development. There are things you can do to slow down their development, however, such as:
- Wear sunglasses.
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants.
There are multiple types of cataracts, and even within the same type, there are a range of symptoms a person can experience.
Yes. If you live long enough, you will likely develop cataracts.
Yes. Diabetes and glaucoma both predispose a person to developing cataracts. For more on cataracts and other eye conditions.
Because a cataract affects the part of the eye that is responsible for refracting light, it will sometimes cause a refraction error such as nearsightedness or farsightedness. And rarely, if left to mature, a cataract can eventually become so large that it causes a type of glaucoma.
No. As the natural lens of the eye ages, it often hardens and is less able to flex and focus light. This hardening is often accompanied by a loss of flexibility in the surrounding muscles. This hardening and loss of flexibility is commonly called presbyopia. Because presbyopia is a function of aging, many people with cataracts also have presbyopia. In recent years, multifocal intraocular lenses have been developed to correct both cataracts and presbyopia simultaneously.
No. However, a person can develop cataracts in both eyes.
Yes. When left untreated, cataracts may eventually cause blindness.
This is a colloquial way of saying that the cataract affects vision enough that the benefits of removing it outweigh the risks of the surgical procedure.
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