When you are born, your eye lens is typically clear. A natural clouding of this lens occurs with aging. Cataracts can form and not be visually significant for variable lengths of time, but surgical correction by an ophthalmologist is often needed.
Types of Cataracts
Cataracts are classified by which part of the lens is affected.
Examples of types of cataracts include:
- Nuclear cataracts (cataracts affecting the center of the lens)
- Cortical cataracts (cataracts that affect the edges of the lens)
- Posterior subcapsular cataracts (cataracts that affect the back of the lens)
- Congenital cataracts (cataracts you’re born with)
Cataracts can also be caused by some underlying systemic diseases.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t disturb your eyesight early on. However, with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision. The signs and symptoms of cataracts depend on which part of the eye lens is cloudy.
Common symptoms of cataracts include:
- Clouded, blurred, or dim vision
- Double vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Need for brighter than normal light to read or see objects
- Appearance of “halos” around bright lights
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Headache due to changes in vision
- Frequent changes in eyeglasses or contact lens prescriptions
Cataracts can also sometimes cause complications if not treated appropriately.
Complications may include:
- Increased risk of glaucoma
- Inflammation of the eye
- Vision loss
Risk Factors for Cataracts
While cataracts are a natural cause of aging, women are more likely to be diagnosed with cataracts than men.
Other risk factors for cataracts include:
- Family history of cataracts
- Diabetes or high blood pressure
- Past eye surgery or injury (including excessive exposure to sunlight)
- Long-term use of steroid medications
- Alcohol abuse
- Older age, usually over the age of 60, though it can occur at any age
Cataracts can also be caused by other systemic diseases, such as atherosclerosis, atopy, diabetes mellitus, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, Marfan’s syndrome, and more.
Interventions to help prevent the onset of cataracts include:
- Get your eyes tested regularly
- Make sure you use the correct eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Use sunglasses when you go outside
- Monitor your blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Maintain a healthy height-to-weight ratio
Treating Cataracts at UT Health Austin
Treatment is dependent on the underlying type of cataract, the severity on your vision, and how this impacts your daily life. Your ophthalmologist is well-versed in the most current, evidence-based treatment recommendations, which may include monitoring or surgery.
Care Team Approach
At UT Health Austin, we take a multidisciplinary approach to your care. This means you will benefit from the expertise of multiple specialists across a variety of disciplines. Your care team will include fellowship-trained ophthalmologists, ophthalmic technicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, social workers, and more, who work together to help you get back to the things in your life that matter most to you. We also collaborate with our colleagues at the Dell Medical School and The University of Texas at Austin to utilize the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment techniques, allowing us to identify new therapies to improve treatment outcomes. We are committed to communicating and coordinating your care with your other healthcare providers to ensure that we are providing you with comprehensive, whole-person care.