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Understanding the Different Types of Cataracts

Getting older always increases the risk for deteriorating body systems. The risk of cataracts climbs as you get older. Some segments of the American population have a 50% chance of developing this vision issue by the time they reach 75. 

Fortunately, cataracts typically develop slowly, and treatment measures are available along the way. When they begin to seriously affect your sight, cataract surgery is simple and effective, capable of restoring and even improving your vision. 

Board Certified Ophthalmologist Stephen Khachikian, MD, located in Rapid City, South Dakota, specializes in cataract treatment and surgery. If you’re part of the over-40 demographic who develop cataracts, Dr. Khachikian can help. 

The nature of cataracts

The lenses of your eyes play the biggest role in bending light to focus on your retinas, a key component of sharp vision. As you age, proteins within the lens begin to break down and clump together, affecting the way the lens works. If you’ve ever smudged a camera lens, you’ll know how image formation can suffer. 

As these clumps grow in size, the lenses become increasingly cloudy, and the negative effects on your sight get worse. You’ll need brighter light or larger text to read comfortably, and your night vision may suffer. Bright lights and glare become increasingly uncomfortable, and you may start to see halos around light sources. Eventually, your lenses become visibly cloudy, though each eye progresses at its own pace.

Though the progress of cataracts lead toward the same point, there are three distinct types of development, dependent on where the clouding starts in the lens. 

Nuclear cataracts 

As the name suggests, nuclear cataracts form at the center of an eye’s lens. In some patients, the early stages of nuclear cataracts can actually improve vision for a short while. This type of clouding tends to be yellow, turning to brown in later stages, and it can interfere with your color perception. 

Cortical cataracts

Starting around the edges of the lens, cortical cataracts are white in color, often forming wedge shapes or streaks. With the progression of the condition, these opaque forms advance toward the center of the lens, increasing the amount of visual impairment as they develop. 

Posterior subcapsular cataracts

This type of cataract usually progresses faster than the other two. Like nuclear cataracts, posterior subcapsular cataracts are centrally located, though they start at the back of the lens. They also tend to create the strongest effects on reading vision and light halos. 

A fourth form of cataracts affect children, either from birth or developing in early childhood, is called congenital cataracts. These can run in families or result from infections or trauma prior to birth. Sometimes associated with other health conditions, including rubella, congenital cataracts may not cause vision problems.

If cataracts are affecting your daily life, request an appointment with Dr. Khachikian online or call 605-203-4268 today.

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