Stages of cataract

Have you ever wondered why we develop cataract as we age? This article will shed some light on the different stages of cataract and their management.

According to World Health Organization, cataract is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Cataract is a condition where the natural lens in the eye turns cloudy as we age. It usually occurs in both eyes, but severity may differ for each eye.

Cataract blocks the amount of light entering the eye. As a result, the vision will not be as clear as it should even with glasses. Cataract can occur at any age, but it is more common in the elderly.

Cataract can be congenital or acquired. While some people can be born with cataracts (congenital), the most common types of cataract are acquired during old age. There are various causes of cataract including ageing, UV exposure, smoking, long term steroid use, trauma to the eye, diabetes and high myopia.

There are 3 common types of cataract:

lights-and-cataract graphic

Nuclear sclerosis

It occurs when the centre part of the lens hardens and turns cloudy. This is the most common type of age-related cataract.

Image taken from Washington University in St.Louis

Posterior subcapsular cataract

It develops from a small opacity on the back surface of the lens. It is more common in diabetics and steroid users.

Image taken from ResearchGate

Cortical cataract

It occurs when spoke-like opacities develop from the edge to the centre of the lens. Diabetics have a higher risk of developing cortical cataract.

Image taken from Shropshire Eye Care

As the cataract progresses, it can cause vision problems and affect one’s daily life. It is important to seek professional help from an eye specialist if you experience any changes in vision. The summary below will take you through the different stages and symptoms of cataract as it develops.

Early stage

During this stage, the cataract is relatively unnoticeable, but you might start to find it challenging to change focus from distance to near. The symptoms one will experience include mild blurring of vision, increase sensitivity to light and glare. Your prescription might change. The vision can be improved by updating your glasses prescription.

The immature stage

The cataract is more noticeable at this stage. The symptoms reported are blurry, double and dimmed vision, and increase in glares and haloes around point sources of light. Some people also experience challenges driving at night as colours do not appear as rich. During this stage, your prescription might fluctuate. Brighter lighting and updating your glasses prescription will help with the vision at this stage.

The mature stage

The cataract is denser compared to the immature stage. The symptoms experienced are like those at the immature stage. However, the severity of the symptoms is worse and will likely affect one’s quality of life. Reading small prints will prove challenging. Updating the prescription of glasses will not improve vision in a significant way. You should visit an ophthalmologist at this stage to consider cataract surgery.

The hypermature stage

This is the final stage of cataract where the whole lens is cloudy. The milky white lens is visible to the naked eye. There is a significant reduction in vision during this stage, leading to visual impairment. Surgical intervention is required to remove the cataract to restore vision.

There is no method to prevent cataract from developing. However, by changing our lifestyle, we can slow down the progression of cataract:

  • Several research studies have shown that a diet rich in antioxidants like Vitamin C and E help reduce the risk of cataract.
  • Akin to applying sunblock on our skin to protect against UV rays, wearing a pair of sunglasses with UV protection does the same for our eyes.
  • Smoking harms the body including the eyes. It is important to stop smoking as it doubles the risk of cataract.
  • Diabetes increases the risk of developing cataract. It is therefore important to keep the blood sugar level under control.

Cataract develops gradually and often people do not know they have them until the vision and quality of life are affected. It is therefore important to have regular eye examination to detect for any signs of cataract.

Cataract is a treatable condition. It can be removed through cataract surgery, which is a low risk surgery. As technology advances these days, we no longer must wait till the cataract is ‘ripe’ or ‘mature’ before removal. Cataract removal is done through a key-hole incision whereby recovery is fast, risk of infection is lower and vision outcome is more predictable. Cataract surgery can be performed at any stage of the cataract development. Your ophthalmologist will advise you on the right time to have the surgery.

At Atlas Eye Specialist Centre, we offer you a cataract screening service to screen for cataract. For more information on cataract screening, please contact us at +65 6737 9119 or atlaseye@atlaseye.sg

References:

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