How Do Cataracts Develop?

How Do Cataracts Develop?

Cataracts are a very common occurrence, especially as people age. Cataracts can cause vision to seem blurry and develop slowly over time. In the early stages, cataracts do not greatly affect vision. However, left untreated, they can make things like driving or reading almost impossible. Cataracts are a very common condition, and for this reason, it is important to undergo an annual eye exam so they can be caught early if present. Treatment for cataracts typically requires surgery, although stem cell therapy has shown some promise in recent years.

Cataracts are typically caused by age and become present around 40 years old. This occurs because our eyes change as we age. The lens of the eye begins to break down around 40 years old, and in some cases, leads to cloudiness. Cataracts are genetic. Therefore, having a parent or grandparent who suffered from cataracts means you may be at elevated risk. Also, certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or eye injury, can increase your chances of developing cataracts. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun without sunglasses also increases the likelihood of developing cataracts.

There are three types of cataracts: subcapsular, nuclear, and cortical. Subcapsular cataracts form at the back of the lens and can often be a result of steroid use. Nuclear cataracts form in the central zone of the lens and are typically associated with aging. Cortical cataracts start at the edge of the lens and converge in the center. Initial symptoms include less sharp vision, light that seems too bright, or a change in the appearance of colors. Once onset occurs, little can be done to improve vision truly. In the early stages, stronger glasses may help. However, those diagnosed with cataracts will undoubtedly need to have surgery to remove them at some point. Stem cells have recently been studied for their effectiveness in rebuilding the lens, and have shown lots of promise.

The job of the eye lens is to focus light. It works very similarly to a camera lens. The lens is responsible for focusing objects in our line of sight so we can see close up and far away. The lens is primarily made up of water and proteins. However, as we age, our bodies retain less water, and proteins begin to clump together. Oxidative changes may also play a role in developing cataracts. Therefore, eating foods high in antioxidants may help to avoid or delay the onset of cataracts.

Cataracts are a reality for many people as they age. Our bodies break down as we age, and that is just a part of life. While factors such as genetics, pre-existing disease, and exposure to UV light can contribute to the development of cataracts, everyone is at risk. Currently, the only foolproof way to heal cataracts is through surgery. Once they appear, it is only a matter of time before they begin to impair vision to a point it affects a person’s quality of life. Fortunately, the surgery is safe, with minor side effects or risks. In addition, in recent years, stem cell therapy has shown the potential for being able to fix cataracts without having to undergo surgery.

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