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Are cataracts serious? What are the types of cataracts?

Goficure - Blog Page - Are cataracts serious? What are the types of cataracts? (Blog Post) Last Updated March 5, 2024

Overview

Cataracts are dense, cloudy areas that form in the eye lens. The crystalline lens of the eye is a clear, curved structure located behind the iris. It is made of proteins and collagen and helps the light to focus and see the images clearly.

As we get older, the proteins in the lens break down and form clumps, and the lens loses its clarity. It causes blurred vision and sensitivity to light.

Besides aging, other risk factors can contribute to cataract formation such as diabetes, smoking, eye injury, etc. As the symptoms get worse, the doctor may perform a cataract surgery.

Are cataracts serious?

All cataracts may not need immediate surgery. Your doctor will monitor the symptoms of cataracts and its progression.

Cataracts progress at different rates. If it is an age-based cataract, where the disease has occurred as a part of natural aging, then the disease progression may be slow. The cataract may take several years to get big enough to impair the vision. This gives enough time for the patient and the doctor to decide the treatment course but eventually, surgery is the only way to treat cataracts permanently.

In younger people, cataracts may occur due to several reasons like:

  • An eye injury
  • Diabetes
  • Poor nutrition
  • Eye surgery
  • Radiation treatment
  • Unprotected and excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Over-consumption of alcohol

In such cases, the disease can progress faster and may need an immediate cataract operation.

Cataracts if left untreated, can get large to impair the vision completely and may even lead to total vision loss.

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Do cataracts cause blindness?

Research studies show that cataracts are a leading cause of around 50% of blindness globally.

Traumatic cataracts caused by injury or trauma to the eyes can progress quickly and can cause blindness. Eye injury can lead to damage to the eye lens fibers and cataracts can develop and progress rapidly within a span of a few weeks or months.

Over-exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun or medication treatment can also cause cataracts.

Pediatric or congenital cataracts occur at birth due to genetic factors. If the cataracts are large, doctors perform immediate surgery to remove the cataracts and prevent ongoing vision loss or blindness.

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How long does it take to go blind from cataracts?

Age-related cataracts progress slowly and if untreated can take 10 or more years to cause blindness. In the case of other types of cataracts caused due to eye injury or medical problems, the progression is faster and there can be significant vision impairment within a few months. However, cataracts do not cause sudden vision loss or blindness. The progression of the disease is gradual and there will be enough time to seek medical intervention.

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What are the types of cataracts?

Cataracts can be classified into different types.

Cataract types are as follows:

Nuclear cataracts

A nuclear or nuclear sclerotic cataract is the most common type of cataract. They are age-related cataracts and mostly occur in older men due to the natural changes in the eye lens.

They occur at the nucleus or the center of the eye lens. As the cataract progresses, the lens turns yellow or brown and the vision deteriorates. It becomes difficult to differentiate colours.

Cortical cataracts

They are white, wedge-shaped spots that occur at the outer edges of the eye lens and as they grow, they spread to the center. People suffering from diabetes can develop cortical cataracts.

Posterior subcapsular cataracts

Small, cloudy spots develop at the back of the lens. They can develop rapidly and symptoms can be noticed within a few months. People who have diabetes or have undergone steroid treatment can develop these cataracts.

Congenital cataracts

Congenital or pediatric cataracts affect newborns and children. Babies may be born with cataracts or may develop them during the first year of their birth.

Some children develop congenital cataracts during their childhood. This can occur due to hereditary reasons where the parents or someone close in the family have a history of cataracts or due to some eye condition or injury.

Secondary cataracts

A secondary cataract is the development of scar tissue after a cataract surgery. It is also known as posterior capsule opacification or after-cataract. It makes your vision cloudy.

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Final words

The progression of the cataract depends on its type and symptoms. Age-related cataracts may progress slowly but other types of cataracts caused due to radiation or medical problems like diabetes may develop very quickly.

If the symptoms are mild, the doctor may suggest strong eyeglasses or sunglasses with anti-glare coatings. If left untreated, cataracts can lead to severe vision impairment and even blindness. Large cataracts can disrupt normal daily activities and the typical treatment is cataract surgery.

Dos
  • Use a wet towel to gently wipe the face post-surgery
  • Avoid washing your eyes for 10 days after surgery
  • Apply eye drops regularly
Don'ts
  • Rub the eyes after a cataract surgery
  • Indulge in strenuous activities
  • Strain during the passing of stools as it puts pressure on the eyes

 

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