The main problem with cataracts is that you may not even realize you have them until they start to damage your eyes. That’s because the early stages of this disease have very few symptoms, and it’s also hard to detect them from the outside at first. When does a change in your vision become noticeable and what does a cataract look like?
At Ocala Eye, we have answers about the very common condition called a cataract and what happens when you start to develop one.
In healthy eyes, the lens at the front of the eye is clear, allowing light to pass through without any barrier. However, as you age or if the eye has been injured, this clear lens can grow cloudy and filmy. That film is caused by the breakdown of proteins in the lens. Eventually, this protein buildup covers the clear window that you see through.
This is the process of a cataract forming and, if not treated, it can impair or even cause you to go blind over time. There are three primary types of cataracts:
- Nuclear sclerotic
- Posterior subcapsular
Cortical cataracts form on the eye lens in a kind of a wagon wheel shape. Fissures form the spokes of the wheel, causing the light to enter the eye in a scattered, disorganized way. This creates problems with contrast and depth perception.
Nuclear sclerotic cataracts are the most common, starting with a slow hardening of the central part of the lens nucleus. Over time, this hardening process extends across the lens. This type of cataract is particularly interesting because your ability to see things close up (such as for reading) may temporarily improve. Unfortunately, that doesn’t last as the cataract grows and your vision declines.
Posterior subcapsular cataracts strongly affect your night vision and ability to read. This type of cataract actually begins to form beneath the lens capsule, which is a small membrane that helps hold the lens in place.
No matter which type affects you, cataracts are the leading cause of vision impairment in the U.S. This condition particularly affects seniors. Today, 24.5 million people have cataracts in the United States and that number will double in less than 30 years.