A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye (the clear part of the eye that helps to focus light). Most cataracts are related to age — they happen because of normal changes in your eyes as you get older. But you can get cataracts for other reasons, too. There are 5 main types of cataracts.
No matter what type of cataract you have, you’ll need surgery to treat it.
As you get older, a cataract can develop because of natural changes in the lens of your eye. This is the most common type of cataract. You may be more likely to develop age-related cataracts if you:
- Drink too much alcohol
- Have a family history of cataracts
- Have diabetes
- Have had certain eye surgeries, like glaucoma surgery
- Take steroids — medicines used to treat some health problems, like arthritis or allergies
Serious eye injuries can damage your lens and cause a cataract. The cataract could form soon after the injury — or it could form many years later.
Some types of radiation can cause cataracts. This includes ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and radiation treatment for cancer.
Children can get cataracts, too. They can be born with cataracts (congenital cataracts) or develop them later on.
Cataracts in children are rare, and they’re usually genetic — meaning they run in families. They can also happen because of serious problems during pregnancy or because of illnesses during childhood, like uveitis or tumors in the eye. Children can also get cataracts for the same reasons as adults — like eye injuries, radiation, or steroids.
When pediatric cataracts are large enough to cause vision problems, they need treatment right away. It’s important to treat these cataracts early on so your child doesn’t develop other vision problems, like amblyopia (lazy eye).
Some pediatric cataracts are so small that they won’t affect your child’s vision. Your child’s eye doctor can watch these smaller cataracts over time to make sure they don’t cause vision problems.
After cataract surgery, it’s possible to develop scar tissue in the eye — which can make your vision cloudy again. This is called a secondary cataract. Other names for it are after-cataract or posterior capsule opacification. Secondary cataracts are common. In fact, up to 2 out of 5 people who have cataract surgery will develop a secondary cataract.
Treatment for secondary cataracts is quick and painless. Your eye doctor will use a laser to make an opening in the cloudy part of the lens — this is called YAG laser capsulotomy. Most people will notice their vision is back to normal in a few days.