Many people take their vision for granted until a problem arises that affects their ability to see. Although certain conditions might occur suddenly, others develop more gradually and might not even be noticeable until the problem has progressed significantly.
Cataracts are a common vision problem that often are associated with aging. The National Eye Institute says that, by age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. Prevent Blindness America says there are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined. The American Optometric Association defines a cataract as a cloudy or opaque area in the normally clear lens of the eye. Depending on its size, cataracts can interfere with normal vision. They typically occur in people older than the age of 55.
A cataract can be present in one or both eyes. The lens is responsible for helping to focus light or an image on the retina. In a healthy lens, fluid and protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear, according to NEI. However, as one ages, the protein might clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. Throughout time, this clouding might grow. Researchers also suspect there are other causes to cataracts, such as smoking or diabetes. In addition, wear and tear on the lens can develop into cataract clouding. Significant alcohol consumption, UV radiation, eye surgery and high myopia also might contribute to cataract formation.
All About Vision says the types of cataracts include the following:
• Subcapsular cataract, which occurs at the back of the lens.
• Nuclear cataract, which forms deep in the central zone of the lens.
• Cortical cataract, which starts as white opacities in the periphery of the lens and then grows inward.
The Mayo Clinic advises that there are no known methods to prevent cataracts or slow their progression. But choosing a healthy diet full of antioxidants, quitting bad habits such as smoking, managing diabetes and having regular eye examinations can help. It’s also a good idea to wear sunglasses that block against UVA and UVB light when outdoors.
Cataracts can cause blurring of vision and even make it difficult to see in bright conditions. Colors might seem faded, night vision might be adversely affected and glare might be problematic. The AOA says that early cataracts typically are not treated and changes to prescriptions might provide temporary visual improvement. If a cataract progresses to the point that it affects one’s ability to perform everyday tasks, surgery in which an artificial lens replaces the natural lens might be necessary.