Types of Cataracts

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As you age, it is rather normal to develop cataracts in either one or both eyes. Cataracts can be extremely irritating as they hinder your vision by clouding the eye’s natural lens. Cataracts cause vision loss that can ultimately lead to blindness which is why it is so important to visit a specialist to see if you are a candidate for laser cataract surgery. If you think you may have cataracts and are wondering what the different types of cataracts are, symptoms, signs, causes, and treatment options for each, see our descriptions below. It is important to note that you can have one or a combination of any of the three types of cataracts. Most cataracts are age-related and occur in people over 40.

Types of Cataracts

Cortical Cataract

Cortical Cataract

A cortical cataract starts in the lens cortex, which is the peripheral edge of the lens, and appears to be cloudy with white opacities. It slowly works its way inward towards the center of the eye over time and interferes with light passing through the center of the lens. This type of cataract is slow to progress and can usually be treated in the beginning phases with glasses to help with clarity. Cortical cataracts are common in older people with trauma or illness.

Posterior Subcapsular Cataract

Unlike the cortical cataract that develops over time, the posterior subcapsular cataract develops rapidly and symptoms can become noticeable within just a few months. This type of cataract starts as a small, opaque area that typically forms near the back of the lens, directly in the path of light (Mayo Clinic). Posterior subcapsular cataracts can negatively affect your vision when reading or when in bright light. It also will cause a glare around lights at night. People who have diabetes, take steroids, have extreme nearsightedness or retinitis pigmentosa are more prone to develop this type of cataract.

Nuclear Cataract

A nuclear cataract is usually a result of aging and forms in the nucleus or central zone. It is also a slow progression type of cataract similar to the cortical cataract, however, instead of white clouded vision, the nuclear cataract is yellow and eventually can turn vision completely brown. This type of cataract ultimately can make it extremely hard to read and differentiate between colors. The nuclear cataract is the only type of cataract that actually can improve nearsightedness during the beginning phases of its development.

Risk Factors For All Types of Cataracts

Cataracts usually develop due to age or medical conditions but there are a few things you can increase your risk of developing any or all types of cataracts including:

  • Increasing Age
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Poor diet
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Previous Eye surgery
  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications

Ways to Reduce Risk of Developing Cataracts

Although sometimes cataracts are inevitable, there are a few things you can do to reduce your risk or slow the progress down in general:

  • Visit your eye doctor on an annual basis – it is so important to schedule routine checkups with your eye doctor as you start to age or if you have any medical conditions that can lead to cataracts.
  • Follow a nutritional diet plan – taking care of your body by eating right and exercising is also another great way to reduce your risk of developing cataracts.
  • Protect your eyes – just like your skin, it is important to protect your eyes from UV rays.
  • Everything in moderation – we get it, most people like to enjoy alcoholic beverages now and again and we just advise that you partake in those activities in moderation. Smoking, on the other hand, we highly recommend quitting that habit altogether as the health risks far surpass the damage it can do to your eyes.

Surgery Options for Cataracts

The surgical treatment option for each type of cataract involves removing that lens and replacing it with an artificial one. These artificial intraocular lenses, or IOLs, traditionally have a single-focus that allows you to see clearly at one distance; however, modern multifocal lenses allow patients to see clearly at all distances, reducing or even eliminating their use of corrective eyewear. In addition, we also have the option of utilizing Toric lenses which can eliminate astigmatism and strengthen your vision for distance without having to depend on glasses that correct for astigmatism.

Extracapsular cataract surgery removes the lens while the capsule remains in place adding support and improving the healing ability and stability of your eye. The extracapsular approach is the most commonly performed method of cataract surgery today. Once the lens of the eye has been removed, the IOL will be placed. The surgery usually takes less than 15 minutes while the patient is under local anesthesia.

In the last two decades, the extracapsular method of cataract surgery has been accomplished by breaking up the clouded lens with ultrasound (phacoemulsification). However, recent improvements in technology now allow the use of a computer-guided laser (Femtosecond Laser) to precisely perform many of the steps of the procedure making the surgery more accurate, bladeless, and customized to each individual patient.

Types of Cataracts

If you think you may be developing a cataract or already know that you have one, contacting your local eye doctor for a consultation to discuss your options for treatment is necessary. Your eye doctor will be able to guide your treatment plan and help you decide the best course of action to help you get the best vision possible. Losing your vision can be scary but with the help of a great ophthalmologist, you can partake in a simple surgery to get your vision back and reduce blurred, discolored eyesight.