Three Types of Cataracts

By pendletoneye November 18, 2021

Cataracts are painless but gradually progressive. The lens of the eye refracts light (bends) allowing light rays into the eye to see. Cataracts block light from passing through the lens. When normal proteins in the lens start to breakdown, vision becomes cloudy. The lens of the eye is transparent and when a cataract progresses it becomes noticeably white causing a variety of symptoms.

The three types of cataracts are: nuclear sclerotic, cortical, and posterior subcapsular. Let’s breakdown the three types of cataracts:

Nuclear Sclerotic Cataracts

Nuclear sclerotic cataracts are the most common and usually occur due to age. Nuclear sclerotic cataracts affect the nucleus (the center of the eye). With this type of cataract, the lens gradually hardens and turns densely yellow or brown over time. An unusual occurrence can take place in the early stages of development known as second sight. The nuclear cataract is the only type of cataract that can temporarily improve vision for those who are nearsighted during the beginning phases of its development. However, this second sight doesn’t remain for long and farsighted vision suffers more significant impairment. Shades of color are often hard to distinguish as the nuclear sclerotic cataract reaches the more advanced stage of development; however, nuclear sclerotic cataracts progress slowly. Patients may find new prescription glasses or other simple changes to aid in vision improvement before needing to consider cataract surgery. 

Cortical Cataracts

Unlike nuclear sclerotic cataracts that affect the center of the lens, cortical cataracts affect the outer layer of the lens. These cataracts develop in what is known as the cortex (edges) of the lens. As cortical cataracts progress, white streaks, also referred to as cortical spokes, begin to grow from the outside of the lens to the nucleus. These streaks may begin to block light from passing naturally through the lens of the eye. When this happens, patients have reported glares, light sensitivity, blurred vision, and decreased ability to perceive contrast and depth. Cortical cataracts are often associated with diabetes and high blood pressure and most commonly affect the elderly or those with trauma or illness to the eye. 

Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts

Posterior subcapsular contacts are the fastest growing of the three types of cataracts. In fact, while other cataracts may take years before the symptoms begin to dramatically affect vision, posterior subcapsular cataracts can cause damage in months, weeks, or even days. This type of cataract begins at the back of the lens. Posterior subcapsular cataracts have many of the same symptoms as other cataracts. While cataracts in general tend to affect those greater in age or patients with diabetes, posterior subcapsular cataracts can occasionally be found in children or infants. In addition to other risk factors common in cataracts, steroid medication use is one of the common reasons for developing posterior subcapsular cataracts.

Cataract symptoms include blurry vision, diplopia (also known as double vision), sensitivity to light, difficulty seeing at night or requiring extra light for reading, glare or halo effects, colors will appear faded or yellow instead of seeing bright colors, and a noticeable white or cloudy patch that may form over the lens. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, our team at Pendleton Eye can help you decide the best course of treatment. Reach out to us today at 760-758-2008 or website.