Three Common Types Of Cataracts Explained

Posted on: 18 August 2015

The lens of your eye is located behind your iris and is clear in a healthy eye. When you develop a cataract, the lens clouds over and appears opaque. Left untreated, a cataract can cause complete loss of vision in the affected eye. The clouding occurs as a result of a protein in your lens changing its structure and clumping together, which blocks light from reaching the retina at the back of your eye. Here's an overview of three common types of cataracts and the treatment process:

3 Common Types Of Cataract

If your optometrist diagnoses you with a cataract, it's likely to be one of these three types:

  • Nuclear - This is the most common type of cataract. It's associated with ageing, which causes the protein in the middle of your lens to begin to break down. In the early stages of development, your ability to see close-up objects may improve as your eye's focusing capability changes. However, this is a temporary perk of a nuclear cataract.
  • Cortical - A cortical cataract diminishes your ability to see near and distant objects clearly. It begins to form around the outer rim of your lens and gradually works its way inwards. This type of cataract is a common complication of poorly-controlled diabetes, as high levels of sugar alcohol in your lens can damage the delicate cells of your lens, which encourages the breakdown of protein. Taking steps to keep your blood sugar levels under control reduces your risk of developing a cortical cataract.
  • Subcapsular - This type of cataract develops on the back of your lens and early symptoms include blurred vision and increased sensitivity to light. Diabetes is also a risk factor for the development of a subcapsular cataract, but it's commonly associated with prolonged use of prescription corticosteroids. Therefore, those with an inflammatory autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or Crohn's disease, are at in increased risk of developing this type of cataract.

Treating Cataracts

The only way to get rid of a cataract is to have it surgically removed. Cataracts tend to worsen over time, so prompt treatment can prevent you experiencing further discomfort, but some people do choose to wait and see how quickly their eyesight is deteriorating before having surgery. If you'd like to take this approach, it's best to have regular eye exams as changes to your vision may not be immediately noticeable to you.

Cataract surgery involves removing the lens with a small device that breaks it down using ultrasonic waves. The lens pieces are then suctioned out of the protective lens capsule and replaced with an artificial lens. You can opt for a plain lens or one with focusing capability. If you normally wear glasses, you will still need to wear them with a plain lens, but you may not need them if you select a lens that enables you to better focus on near or distant objects. The procedure can be carried out under local anaesthetic and you should be able to go home the same day.

If you're experiencing visual disturbances or notice any changes to the colour of your eyes, schedule an eye exam as soon as possible. Talk with a doctor at a clinic like myEyeSpecialist if you have specific questions about cataract surgeries.