No am I not talking about a kitty cat. In this post I want to cover cataracts. I really don’t like this word; sounds like something creepy straight out from Halloween walking around… can’t even describe. I would much rather use the first three letters and call it CAT (all caps on purpose).
In a nutshell, CAT is a cloudy area in the eye lens. The lens is located in the front part of the eye, right behind the iris. Normally when the lens is clear, the light enters the eye through said lens and focuses a clear image on the retina, much like a camera does. When however lens is cloudy (or you jerk the camera), the image goes blur. Uh oh.
Here is what our eyes are made of.
See the lens? There is a nucleus right smack in the middle of it. Not seen in this picture but trust me, it is there. Will come back to this later when I describe the types of a CAT.
I first learned about having a CAT about a year or two ago. Based on the fact that I am still able to see, I assume that mine is a slowly developing kind. Likely a result of a lifelong sun exposure. Once I learned that, all my going to the beach flashed in front of me, and I wanted to beat myself up. Not that it would help any. But the good news is, this probably is not diabetes related. Actually my diabetes is under control now. This morning my fasting number was 94.
As my eye doctor was silent about the details of my CAT, naturally I turned to the internet. And came across this great website, VisionAware that describes the CAT types in great detail.
There are three types of a CAT. And contrary to the popular belief, not all of them are caused by diabetes. If you however do a google search for causes of a CAT, the first two that pop up are older age and, you guessed it, diabetes. This sounds almost politically correct, however is not always true. There are other reasons including trauma, inflammation and certain meds; and CAT can also happen to babies or older kids with no diabetes in sight.
The first type is a Nuclear CAT. Remember nucleus inside the lens? This is it. Exactly the part that gets damaged. Nucleus begins to harden, and when that happens, the trouble begins yet progresses slowly and silently (without symptoms) for many years before it begins to actually affect vision.
Traditionally and not surprisingly, Nuclear CAT is associated with aging. However merely growing older does not cause CATs. The damage begins when one is still fairly young but then the CAT is relatively small and doesn’t affect vision, hence is not detected. Only later on when it does affect vision, you see your doctor and receive the breaking news. Of course the jury is out on this one and you can find plenty of different opinions on the net. But I believe this is exactly what happens and the developing of a CAT is not necessarily age-related. YMMV.
Then there is a Cortical CAT. It affects the cortex, or outside edge of the lens, where the white cloudy areas (opacities) develop. Those of us with diabetes are at risk for this type of a CAT.
The third one affects the back part of the eye and is called Posterior CAT. Posterior means the back of the eye which is where cloudy or opaque area form. Those of us who are on steroids or having diabetes are at risk.
These three are basic types. There is a small bunch of subtypes of each but I don’t want to go there. Too complicated.
All said and done, you might start thinking that CATs happen to the older folks only. Oh well, this isn’t always true. Sometimes babies are born with it, or the older kids develop it, for a number of reasons, including genetics. It’s called congenital CAT, or childhood / juvenile CAT. If a surgery is needed which is not always the case, it can be done as early as at six weeks of age.
Done with the CAT, next thing I’ll be talking about some eye protection that deserves its own post.
Did you notice? You type the word cataract with left hand only, let alone CAT.