Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40 and the most common cause of blindness in the world. Deepinder Dhaliwal, MD, director of Cornea and Refractive Surgery at the UPMC Eye Center, explains that the formation of a cataract is a normal aging process and occurs when the eye’s natural protein begins to clump together, clouding the lens of the eye. The first symptom is often blurred vision.
Types of Cataracts
There are three types of cataracts, and they are categorized primarily by where they start within the eye.
- Nuclear cataracts: The most common age-related cataract, these start in the center of the lens and are mostly caused by the hardening of the lens.
- Cortical cataracts: Originating on the outside edge of the lens and moving towards the center of the eye, these cataracts are characterized by white, cloudy spots on the lens of the eye.
- Subcapsular cataracts: Beginning in the back of the lens these cloudy areas can create a halo effect and glare around lights.
Symptoms of Cataracts
A cataract starts small and may have no effect on your vision initially. According to Dr. Dhaliwal, “Blurred vision is an early indicator that a cataract is developing, though the exact symptoms experienced are directly related to the type of cataract that is developing. For example, nuclear cataracts may initially improve your close-up vision; however, that improvement is temporary.” Some of the most common signs that you may have a cataract include:
- Blurry, cloudy, foggy vision
- Glare (from headlights, lamps, sun, etc.)
- Difficulty driving at night
- Change in eyeglass prescription
- Double vision in one eye
Diagnosis of Cataracts
Screening for cataracts is part of a comprehensive eye exam. Many of the routine tests that your doctor performs during your exams act as screening tools. It’s important to not opt out of dilatation drops during your exam because they are used to better examine the lens and other parts of the eye. Anytime you are experiencing difficulty seeing, or have blurred or double vision, you should consult your eye doctor.
In terms of treatment, Dr. Dhaliwal explains that in most cases, early cataract symptoms can be managed effectively through adjusting the prescription in your eyeglasses, wearing anti-glare lenses/sunglasses, increasing light while reading, and other vision aids.
In cases where the cataract begins to interfere with your quality of life, cataract surgery can be an option. During this common procedure, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens implant.
The development of cataracts is often linked to smoking, diabetes, poor nutrition, trauma, steroid use, and exposure to the sun. Although there are no proven prevention methods, quitting smoking, eating a diet full of antioxidants (leafy greens and fruits), and wearing sunglasses and a hat while in the sun may help protect your vision.
Find more information by visiting UPMC Eye Center or by calling 412-647-2200.