At Elite Eye Care in New York City, Dr. Markiel Yakubov and our team know that having regular eye examinations is your best line of defense against preventable eye diseases and age-related ocular conditions that can rob you of your vision, including cataracts.
We also know that it’s helpful to know your personal risk factors for cataracts as well as how to spot their early warning signs, especially as you get older. Read on as we explore the ins and outs of cataract development, including how they can affect your vision early on.
A short tutorial on cataracts
A cataract develops when the clear ocular lens — or the inner part of your eye that works with the cornea to focus light correctly onto the retina at the back of your eye — becomes clouded with protein clumps. An opaque lens causes blurry, hazy, or less colorful vision; left untreated, it can lead to vision loss.
While cataracts tend to affect both eyes simultaneously, they don’t always develop at the same rate. Cataracts can also develop in different ways:
Nuclear sclerotic cataracts
As the most common cataract type, nuclear sclerotic cataracts begin as a gradual hardening and yellowing of the lens’s central zone (nucleus). They tend to progress slowly, expanding toward the outer edges of the lens over time.
Strongly associated with diabetes, this type of cataract starts at the edges of the lens’s shell layer (cortex), causing whitish, wedge-shaped opacities or streaks. Cortical cataracts advance slowly, gradually extending their “spokes” inward toward the center of the lens.
Posterior subcapsular cataracts
This fast-progressing cataract starts as a small, cloudy area on the back surface (posterior) of the lens, directly in the path of incoming light. Diabetes and extreme nearsightedness are key risk factors for posterior subcapsular cataracts.
Assessing your cataract risk
Most cataracts are a product of normal aged-related eye changes: In the United States, over 24 million people aged 40 and older have cataracts; by the age of 75, more than half of adults either have cataracts or have had surgery to remove them.
Even so, several risk factors can increase your chances of developing cataracts at a younger age, or make them even more likely in older age. These include:
- Having diabetes
- Smoking (tobacco use)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Taking steroids (i.e., for asthma)
- Having a family history of cataracts
- Not wearing sunglasses on sunny days
- Having a previous eye injury or eye surgery
If you have multiple cataract risk factors, regular eye exams become even more important starting in middle age, or at about the age of 40. Why? Most cataracts advance very slowly, only causing obvious vision problems once they’ve reached an advanced stage. Dr. Yakubov can catch the problem before you have symptoms, and take steps to preserve your vision.
Early warning signs of cataracts
In their early stages of formation, cataracts don’t typically cause noticeable vision symptoms. As such, there aren’t any so-called “early” warning signs for cataracts. As they grow and progress, however, you may start to notice subtle eyesight changes like:
- Blurry vision that makes you squint or strain your eyes
- Persistently fuzzy vision that makes it hard to see details
- Seeing a face or object as a “ghosted” double image
- Double vision and light sensitivity when driving at night
- Sunlight, lamps, or headlights become painfully bright
- Perceiving bright colors as faded, drab, and less vibrant
- A darkened field of vision that’s tainted yellow or brown
If you have any of these vision problems, make an eye care appointment with Dr. Yakubov as soon as possible. While they may be characteristic indicators for cataracts, other serious eye conditions can cause similar symptoms.
A comprehensive dilated eye exam is all it takes to diagnose cataracts. Surgery is the only way to get rid of them, but you may not need surgery right away. Sometimes, simple changes like updating your corrective lens prescription, wearing sunglasses, and using brighter lighting when you work can help you see clearly.
Don’t put off your eye exam
Having regular eye exams can help you maintain healthy eyes and good vision at any age, and Elite Eye Care is here to help. Call or click online to schedule a visit at your nearest office today — we have five New York City locations: one in Brooklyn, and four more in the Bronx.