You might be wrong to believe the common notion that cataracts only affect adults and older people aged 70 and above. Currently, a Mayo Clinic study revealed that an increasing number of young people develop cataracts and undergo cataracts surgery. While this condition is typically associated with age-related changes affecting the eye, children and young adults can suffer from cloudy eyes, causing dim, blurry, and dull vision.
According to CDC, cataracts are the number one cause of vision loss in the U.S and blindness globally. Nationwide, 22 million people suffer from age-related cataracts, but the number is projected to surpass 30 million by the end of the year.
What Are Cataracts?
Before highlighting the reasons behind the increasing number of cataracts affecting young people, it is worth understanding what cataracts are. Cataracts are among the many eye conditions that primarily affect the eye lens. They cloud eye lenses, located behind the pupil and iris, interfering with how light passes through the retina.
During the early stages, cataracts may not affect vision severely. However, as it progresses, it can impair your vision and daily routine. Affected persons often experience cloudy or dim vision, and if left untreated, cataracts can cause vision loss. While cataracts aren’t painful, they can become painful if left untreated for long.
Cataracts develop due to many reasons, most of them being advanced age. The aging process leads to the breakdown of proteins that occur naturally around the lens. Released protein particles then cluster, forming cataracts that cloud the lens. Other factors that speed up the breakdown of these proteins include genetic disorders, use of steroids, ultraviolet rays, smoking, diabetes, and radiation therapy.
Young people can develop acquired cataracts due to some of these reasons, while babies suffer from congenital cataracts. Interestingly, in some situations, there are no imminent causes of cataracts. Unconcluded scientific studies have tried linking prolonged use of electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets to cause cataracts in the young population.
Which Types of Cataracts Affect Young People?
Generally, young people can suffer from all types of cataracts. Among them include;
- Nuclear sclerotic cataracts – these cataracts develop gradually from the center of the lens, hardening the eye lens.
- Cortical cataracts – they occur when eye lens fibers surrounding the nucleus of the lens become opaque.
- Posterior subcapsular cataracts – they occur directly below the eye lens capsule and are common in young patients. They can progress to nuclear sclerotic cataracts over time.
- Traumatic cataracts – as the name suggests, they are caused by blunt force to the eye.
- Diabetic cataracts – occur due to uncontrolled blood sugar levels.
- Congenital cataracts – they affect newborns and mainly occur at birth due to inherited traits or underlying systemic disease.
Regardless of your age and type of cataract, the primordial sign of this problem is increasing difficulty in vision, especially at night. Patients also develop gradual sensitivity to light, glares, and clouded vision.
Why Are More People Getting Cataract Surgery?
As mentioned, the number of young people getting cataract surgery is on the rise. The following reasons highlight why such is happening.
1. Cataracts Develop at Any Age
Even though cataracts primarily affect old adults, young people are not immune to this eye condition. As listed above, cataracts are caused by several factors, including trauma, steroid medications, and diabetes, which also affect young people. For instance, congenital cataracts, which affect babies, are best treated by surgery.
2. Cataract Surgery Is Fast and Safe
Unlike before, advanced technology has made cataract surgeries fast, safe, and effective. Traditional cataract surgeries used a scalpel, which heavily relied on surgeons’ precision. Besides, the procedure was very invasive and took a lot of time and effort to remove the damaged lens.
However, modern surgeries are done using computer-guided lasers, which have unmatched accuracy. Femtosecond laser cataract surgeries have significantly reduced surgery time, made the procedure safe, and increased efficiency.
3. Lens Implants Reduce Dependence on Contacts and Eyeglasses
Initially, cataract surgeries involved replacing the cloudy eye lens with a replacement lens that allowed patients to enjoy distance vision. However, modern technology and lens implant options enable patients to regain near, middle, and distant vision. Actually, some patients regain better vision than they had. This eliminates the dependence on eyeglasses and contact lenses that patients with vision problems had.
If you have cataracts at a young age, there is no point waiting until you grow old to undergo cataract surgery. Getting a cataract surgery at a young age solves your eye vision problems and allows you to enjoy a better vision for a long time. That aside, young patients heal quickly than old patients recovering from cataract surgery.