Cataract: Causes and Symptoms


    Cataract consists in the clouding of the lens, which is located within the eye. Through cataract surgery, the clouded lens is replaced with a new transparent one.

    The crystalline lens allows to focus images on the retina; with the passing of time, it may become opaque and that’s when cataract occurs. Depending on the opacity level, there can be three types of cataracts:

    • nuclear cataract – affects the central part of the lens,
    • cortical cataract  – affects the outer part,
    • posterior subcapsular cataract – affects only the back of the lens.


    Cataract Symptoms






    The most important symptom is a progressive loss of vision. At first, there is little visual discomfort, since the clouding of the lens (cataract) could be limited to small areas. Over time though, the following symptoms occur:

    • blurred vision
    • higher light sensitivity along with glare (illuminated objects appear surrounded by halos, light colors seem to be brighter at night, sense of discomfort is experienced when exposed to sunlight)
    • decreased visibility at night
    • lowered images contrast (colors appear washed out)
    • myopia variations, astigmatism or hyperopia/farsightedness

    Cataract does not cause pain. The appearance of these symptoms could also represent a warning sign for other eye related diseases: the best thing to do is to consult an ophthalmologist for further diagnosis.

    Cataract Causes

    Familiarity is listed among the causes of cataracts but there’s also a number of specific factors such as:

    • Age (senile cataract)
    • Unprotected exposure to ultraviolet rays
    • Eye traumas
    • Drugs use such as corticosteroids (posterior subcapsular cataract)
    • Systemic diseases such as diabetes
    • Eye diseases such as glaucoma and high-degree myopia that may predispose to the formation of cataracts.

    Cataract and glaucoma (or cataract and myopia) represent a particular pair: cataract surgery often turns out to improve the other disease as well.

    The different types of Cataract

    Senile cataract: age-related, typically occurs around 60 years of age.

    Nuclear cataract: a type of cataract that usually occurs during adulthood. The nucleus of the lens loses its transparency becoming opacified, hence the name.

    Cortical cataract: involves the external part of the lens and may develop as a result of trauma

    Secondary cataract: happens after cataract surgery and consists of a clouding of the lens. It is treated with a laser called Yag Laser Capsulotomy.

    There is no need for surgery in the operating room since this is an outpatient treatment. This kind of cataract usually occurs 1 to 5 years after surgery.

    Cataract Prevention

    Although it is still unclear how to protect against cataract, people over 60 years of age are considered at risk for vision related problems. If you’re 60 or more, it is advisable to undergo an eye examination with pupil dilation at least every two years.

    This examination allows to spot the first signs of cataract symptoms, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders. To prevent eye diseases such as cataracts and macular degeneration, it is also appropriate to:

    • limit exposure to ultraviolet rays using sunglasses
    • follow a diet rich in antioxidants usually found in fruit (oranges, blueberries, carrots, strawberries, kiwi etc)
    • Avoid smoking.