Grey or Cloudy Eye Color? It Could Mean Cataracts
By Essilor News
When we look people in the eyes, we tend to immediately notice their eye color. But have you ever noticed someone with a cloudy or hazy look in their eyes? It could be cataracts.
When light rays enter the eye, they pass through the pupil and into the lens. The eye’s natural lens bends the light in order to focus the objects you’re looking at onto the retina. Once the image reaches the retina, it passes through the optic nerve to the brain which processes the image.
A cataract is a buildup of protein on the lens that can cause it to look cloudy. This keeps light from properly passing through the eye’s lens, resulting in partial loss of vision. According to Prevent Blindness America, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world and affect more than 24 million Americans over the age of 40. However, cataracts can also occur in young adults and children.
Not all cataracts are the same. The different types of cataracts include:
- Nuclear cataracts – Affecting the center of the lens, nuclear cataracts can cause nearsightedness, but eventually turn the lens yellow or even brown.
- Cortical cataracts – These cataracts start out as whitish streaks on the edge of the lens. The streaks can interfere with light passing through the lens and cause problems with glare.
- Posterior subcapsular cataracts – People who suffer from posterior subcapsular cataracts often experience difficult reading and reduced vision in bright light resulting in glare.
- Congenital cataracts – These are cataracts that people are either born with or develop during childhood.
It isn’t known for sure why the eye’s lens changes with age, but there are several factors that may cause cataracts:
- UV Rays – Studies show that exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, even in small amounts, over a period of many years increases the chances of developing cataracts.
- Diabetes – People with diabetes are more likely to develop cataracts at a younger age than people who don’t have diabetes, and they may progress at a faster rate.
- Smoking – According to the Centers for Disease Control, smoking 15 or more cigarettes a day is associated with up to three times greater risk of cataracts than not smoking at all.
- Medications – Prolonged use of corticosteroids is associated with the development of cataracts.
- Alcohol – Studies show that people with higher alcohol consumption are more likely to develop cataracts compared with people who drink little to no alcohol.
In the early stages of developing a cataract, people usually don’t need surgery. Non-surgical methods like wearing sunglasses to reduce glare or having better reading light usually alleviate symptoms.
However, cataract surgery is needed if the cataract keeps someone from performing necessary activities like reading or driving. This surgery is fairly common with more than 2 million Americans undergoing the procedure every year. Typically it is an outpatient surgery using local anesthesia and doesn’t require an overnight hospital stay. During the cataract surgery, a high-frequency ultrasound probe will break up the cloudy lens. The small pieces of cloudy lens will then be gently removed using suction. This type of surgery needs smaller incisions which reduces the risk of cataract surgery complications.
If you think you are at risk for cataracts, schedule a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor.