What are Cataracts?

by Jul 19, 2021Eye Disease

Cataracts are one of the leading causes of preventable blindness in the U.S. There are also many misconceptions and confusion around what exactly cataracts are.


Anatomy of Cataracts

In the eye, there is a lens that is responsible for helping to focus light on the retina and absorbs UV-B radiation. This lens is where cataracts develop.

With age or other factors, the lens begins to slowly go from completely clear to a cloudy or yellow color. As the cataract is forming it begins to slowly cloud the lens before starting to change the lens to another color altogether.


Types of Cataracts

There are numerous types of cataracts, but the three most common are nuclear sclerotic, cortical, and posterior subcapsular (PSC).

Nuclear sclerotic, or NS, cataracts are the most common and are usually due to normal aging. These cataracts develop later in life and progress very slowly.

Nuclear sclerotic cataracts also give a slightly yellow color to the lens.

Cortical cataracts are the second most common type of cataracts and are also due to normal aging. These cataracts affect the outside of the lens before the center of the lens and may not cause significant issues until they begin to affect the center of the vision.

Cortical cataracts do not have the yellow appearance of nuclear sclerotic cataracts and instead have white spokes around the lens.

Posterior subcapsular cataracts are the least common of the three but are the most common as a result of other issues.

Several diseases, such as diabetes, and medications, such as steroids, are associated with developing posterior subcapsular cataracts.


Problems Associated with Cataracts

Decreased or blurry vision is often the most significant problem that is associated with cataracts. Once a cataract has decreased vision to the point of impacting your daily life, such as not being able to read or drive, it may be worth considering cataract surgery.

Another complaint associated with cataracts is glare, especially glare at night. Since the lens is partially responsible for focusing vision, if it becomes cloudy or hazy it can cause glare.

A loss of color vision or the appearance that everything is a yellow hue is another problem associated with cataracts, especially nuclear sclerotic cataracts.

Since the lens is becoming a yellow tint, it acts like looking through a yellow filter or pair of yellow glasses and may cause vision to appear tinted.


How to Fix Cataracts

Cataracts can only be improved by surgery at this time. The surgery procedure is to remove the natural lens in the eye that has a cataract and replace it with a new artificial lens that is clear.

The new lens implant, or intra ocular lens (IOL), can be customized to also correct for your glasses prescription and reduce the need to wear glasses after the cataract surgery.

As there are some risks associated with the cataract surgery, it is often recommended that you wait until the cataracts are affecting your life and vision to an extent that surgery is the best option.

Glasses, contact lenses, and eye drops will not improve cataracts. However, protecting your eyes from the sun and UV radiation may slow the progression and development of cataracts.

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Our eye doctors at Nittany Eye Associates excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases. Call us at (814) 234-2015 or schedule an appointment online with one of our highly trained optometrists if you would like to learn more about or be evaluated for cataracts.  Be sure to visit Nittany Eye Associates where we always put the care of you and your family first at our convenient locations in State College, Matilda, Spring Mills, Tyrone, and Lock Haven PA areas.


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