How does a cataract form?
A cataract is a cloudy lens. The lens is positioned behind the colored part of your eye (iris). The lens focuses light that passes into your eye, producing clear, sharp images on the retina — the light-sensitive membrane in the eye that functions like the film in a camera. As you age, the lenses in your eyes become less flexible, less transparent and thicker. Age-related and other medical conditions cause proteins and fibers within the lenses to break down and clump together, clouding the lenses. As the cataract continues to develop, it becomes denser and scatters more light so less reaches
As you age, your lenses become less flexible and less transparent and thicker. Age-related and other medical conditions cause proteins and fibers within the lenses to break down and clump together, clouding them over time until they become completely opaque. As a result, light scattering becomes denser so that it blocks out any sharply defined image from reaching your retina — which means blurry vision!
Types of cataracts
Cataract types include:
- Cataracts affecting the center of the lens (nuclear cataracts). A nuclear cataract may at first cause more nearsightedness or even a temporary improvement in your reading vision. But with time, the lens gradually turns more densely yellow and further clouds your vision.
- As the cataract slowly progresses, the lens may even turn brown. Advanced yellowing or browning of the lens can lead to difficulty distinguishing between shades of color.
- Cataracts that affect the edges of the lens (cortical cataracts). A cortical cataract begins as whitish, wedge-shaped opacities or streaks on the outer edge of the lens cortex. As it slowly progresses, the streaks extend to the center and interfere with light passing through the center of the lens.
- Cataracts that affect the back of the lens (posterior subcapsular cataracts). A posterior subcapsular cataract starts as a small, opaque area that usually forms near the back of the lens, right in the path of light. A posterior subcapsular cataract often interferes with your reading vision, reduces your vision in bright light, and causes glare or halos around lights at night. These types of cataracts tend to progress faster than other types do.
- Cataracts you're born with (congenital cataracts). Some people are born with cataracts or develop them during childhood. These cataracts may be genetic, or associated with an intrauterine infection or trauma.
- These cataracts may also be due to certain conditions, such as myotonic dystrophy, galactosemia, neurofibromatosis type 2 or rubella. Congenital cataracts don't always affect vision, but if they do, they're usually removed soon after detection.
Factors that increase your risk of cataracts include:
- Increasing age
- Excessive exposure to sunlight
- High blood pressure
- Previous eye injury or inflammation
- Previous eye surgery
- Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
This information is summarized from MayoClinic.org.