Are There Different Types of Cataracts?
Types of CataractsThere are various kinds of cataracts – types formed by trauma, congenital and age-related. The three primary types of age-related cataracts are nuclear sclerotic, cortical and posterior subcapsular. As we age, any one type or a combination of all three types can develop over time.
Nuclear Sclerotic CataractsThis is the most common type of age-related cataract, caused primarily by the hardening and yellowing of the lens over time. “Nuclear” refers to the gradual clouding of the central portion of the lens, called the nucleus; “sclerotic” refers to the hardening, or sclerosis, of the lens nucleus. As this type of cataract progresses, it changes the eye’s ability to focus, and close-up vision (for reading or other types of close work) may temporarily improve. This symptom is referred to as “second sight,” but the vision improvement it produces is not permanent. A nuclear sclerotic cataract progresses slowly and may require many years of gradual development before it begins to affect vision.
Risk for cataracts?
Your risk for cataracts goes up as you get older. You’re also at higher risk if you:
- Have certain health problems, like diabetes
- Drink too much alcohol
- Have a family history of cataracts
- Have had an eye injury, eye surgery, or radiation treatment on your upper body
- Have spent a lot of time in the sun
- Take steroids (medicines used to treat a variety of health problems, like arthritis and rashes)
Latest research on cataracts
Scientists are studying what causes cataracts and how we can find them earlier and treat them better. NEI also funds research on new treatment options. Get the latest news on NEI-supported cataracts research
Cortical CataractsAnother type of age-related cataract is called cortical cataracts which appear to be like spokes of a wheel point from the outside edge of the lens toward the center. It is thought that these changes occur with age-related changes in the water content of the fibers of the lens itself. A cortical cataract refers to white areas that develop in the lens cortex – or the “chocolate” of our peanut M&M. This particular cataract causes problems with glare and depth perception as the spoke-like changes scatter light that enters the eye. People with diabetes are at a greater risk for developing cortical cataracts. (See Vision Changes Related to Cataracts for more information.)
Photo of an eye with a cortical cataract. Source: National Eye Institute