Cataracts: A foggy window
Sep 28, 2013 / 5:00 am
Cataract is a word derived from the Latin cataracta meaning "waterfall." As water falls and crashes, it turns white, which resembles the appearance of cataracts.
Most people think that a cataract is a ‘film’ that grows over the eye. A cataract can be described as a ‘cloudy spot’ inside the lens of the eye. The lens is a structure approximately the size of a ‘Smartie’ candy. It is made up primarily of water and proteins and is located behind the colored part of the eye known as the iris. As we age, the lens grows in size and becomes slightly hazy and more yellow. Eventually, cloudy areas start to form, which scatter and obstruct light from entering the eye. These ‘cloudy areas’ are what we call cataracts.
The two major risk factors for developing cataracts are age and UV exposure. As we age and experience ‘wear and tear,’ our lens goes through the same process. UV damage accumulates in the lens throughout our lifetime causing our lens to become yellow overtime. The yellowing of the lens filters the dangerous shorter wavelength UV rays to protect the delicate internal structures of the eye. Eventually the lens proteins begin to degrade and denature, causing cloudy areas.
Cataracts come in different shapes and sizes. Depending on their size and location, they will have a different affect on vision. Cortical cataracts begin to grow on the peripheral edges of the lens and do not affect vision until they mature and grow towards the center of the lens. Nuclear cataracts grow in the middle of the lens and can cause a person to become more nearsighted. A posterior subcapsular cataract forms at the back of the lens and has the most detrimental affect on vision. All in all, cataracts will cause vision to become ‘hazy’ and patients might notice a decrease in contrast between objects.
To prolong the development and progression of cataracts it is important to wear good sunglasses. When looking for sunglasses, make sure they cover the entire eye and have UV 400 protection. This protects the eyes from all UVA and UVB rays. There are many different lenses available. A professional optician can guide you in the right direction.
Read more Eyes on Eye Care articles
- Age-related macular degeneration Nov 9
- Less light at the end of the tunnel Oct 12
- Cataracts: A foggy window Sep 28
- Back to school vision Aug 31
- The danger of UV rays Jun 7
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