A cataract occurs when the protein in the lens of the eye experiences a change in structure and clumps together. When this happens, a cloudy, opaque layer forms over the lens and prevents light reaching the retina at the back of the eye. This deteriorates the quality of your vision, and if left untreated, you can experience total loss of vision. A cataract can form in one or both eyes and there are different types. Here's what you need to know about three common types of cataract:
A nuclear cataract is sometimes referred to as an age-related cataract. It's caused by the body's natural aging process and affects protein in the centre of the lens. As the protein around the periphery of the lens remains unchanged, a nuclear cataract changes how your eye focuses. Initially, sufferers may experience and improvement in their sight when viewing near objects, so reading labels on food tins can become easier, for example. However, this is a temporary benefit, and this type of cataract often affects both eyes.
A cortical cataract forms around the outer edges of your eye lens and typically occurs when your blood glucose levels are not well-controlled. This type of cataract leaves you with distorted vision that affects your ability to see objects at a distance or close range when sugar alcohol in your blood damages the cells in your lens. Cortical cataracts are a common complication of poorly controlled type 2 diabetes, but the damage caused cannot be undone by gaining better control of your blood sugar levels.
This type of cataract causes damage to the rear of the lens and can leave sufferers experiencing light sensitivity and blurred vision. You can develop this type of cataract if you are a long-term user of corticosteroids, which are often used to treat chronic inflammatory illnesses. Your doctor can discuss the pros and cons of using corticosteroids with you, but if you take this type of medication, it's wise to have regular eye tests.
Regardless of the type of cataract you have, treatment involves the surgical removal of the lens. You can opt to hold off on the treatment for as long as possible if your cataract is mild, but cataracts worsen when left untreated, so sufferers often opt to have the surgery as soon as they can. The procedure involves using ultrasonic waves and a suction tool to break down and remove the lens. An artificial lens is them slotted into the lens holder, and you can opt for a plain lens or one that has increased focusing power, which may be useful if you usually wear glasses. Cataract removal is a day case procedure that's carried out using local anaesthetic and you'll experience improvement in your vision immediately after the procedure.
If you notice changes to your lens or have any concerns about the health of your eyes, schedule an eye exam as soon as possible to prevent unnecessary damage and discomfort.