Blurry vision, glare, decreased reading vision; while people who have developed a cataract experience most of these symptoms, what is less commonly expected is that children and young adults can develop cataracts as well
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding in the lens in the eye. The lens is located just behind the iris and is responsible for 1/3 of a person’s vision. Normally, this process occurs as people age, and the lens becomes clouding and solid, no longer bending and flexing with the eye. This is what causes the vision to blur, the glare form lights to become a problem, and reading to become difficult among other things.
How do younger people develop cataracts?
As a rule, cataracts do not bother most people until they are over the age of sixty, however there are ways that a younger person can develop, and be bothered by, a cataract.
The congenital cataract: A congenital cataract is one that a person is born with. This form of is rare, and under 5 percent of individuals yearly are born with this condition. Often the cataract is located along the outside of the lens, which leaves the central vision undisturbed. Often times this for of cataract may not require treatment.
The traumatic cataract: As the name suggests, a traumatic cataract typically develops as a result of an injury to the eye. This trauma can be caused by a strong blow to the face, such as the deployment of an airbag, or by an incident in which an object pierces the eye; commonly seen as a result of construction accidents. Statically, a traumatic cataract is the most common type in people under the age of 45 and almost always requires treatment.
Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions can to be linked to the development of cataracts. For example, diabetes and a poor diet often accelerate their maturity. In a person with diabetes, the chronic elevation of blood sugars the lens can become overhydrated, causing the opacities to form.
Social factors: Research has shown, through the use of clinical trials, the connection between younger individuals who smoke and the earlier development of cataracts. While it would be highly unlikely that a child under the age of sixteen would find this to be the cause, smokers over the age of 18 could be at risk. Additionally, people who have extensive exposure to sunlight and ultraviolet rays throughout their lives can have an accelerated progression. This is seen more in individuals near the equator.
What are the treatment options for young people who develop cataracts?
Surgery: The majority of the time a cataract, in both young and older people, will require a surgery called phacoemulsification. This is more commonly known as cataract surgery. The surgery is considered one of the safest modern surgeries in the world. It is preformed in a hospital or sterile operating suite, at which time a skilled ophthalmic surgeon will remove the cataract by breaking up the cataract and extracting the pieces with small instruments. A new, clear man-made lens will then be inserted in it’s place.
It is important to know that once the human lens is removed, it is likely a person’s ability to read will be decreased and the individual may need glasses. Wile cataract surgery is considered a safe choice of treatment, it is still a surgery and all the risks and benefits should be discussed with the ophthalmic surgeon before proceeding.
Diet: There is little research to prove that a healthier diet will aid in the treatment of cataracts, however many physicians believe that it will. This is thought especially true in individuals with diabetes and other such health related diseases.
No Treatment: A person may always elect to not have any thing done, surgically or otherwise, to treat their cataract. With this option the likelihood that it will continue to develop is high. As the cataract progresses, symptoms (Blurry vision, glare, decreased reading, etc) will continue to worsen. Clinical reports show that cataracts untreated are responsible for approximately 40% of the blindness in the United States.
The symptoms of a cataract are bothersome to all individuals who develop them. This is even truer in younger people. Fortunately the treatments are safe with little risk of complications. Often times with treatment a person’s sight can be restored and symptoms alleviated.