What is a posterior subcapsular cataract?

A posterior subcapsular cataract can be diagnosed during an eye exam.

A posterior subcapsular cataract is a form of clouding that affects the back of the lens. Mainly affecting reading and night vision, this condition often accompanies age-related lens degeneration, but it can affect anyone of any age. Treatment involves surgery to remove the affected lenses and placement of artificial lenses to restore proper vision. A posterior subcapsular cataract that remains untreated can result in significant visual impairment and, in some cases, blindness.

Individuals with diabetes may be at increased risk of developing posterior subcapsular cataracts.

Diagnosis of this type of cataract initially involves a standard eye exam to measure visual acuity. An ophthalmologist will ask the individual to read a standardized vision chart to detect any visual impairment. Dilation and magnification can also be used to examine the inner eye and assess any abnormalities that may be present, such as cataract-related clouding of the lens.

A posterior subcapsular cataract interferes with a person’s reading and night vision.

The lens of the eye functions as the main channel through which light is transmitted to form retinal images. Over time, or with injury, the lens can lose its flexibility, causing light passing through it to break and crack. The progressive loss of tone leads to clouding and thickening of the lens that further distorts and darkens the images you see.

Cataract surgery may be performed to treat a posterior subcapsular cataract.

Generally, a history of hyperopia precipitates the onset of posterior subcapsular cataract formation. Individuals with chronic conditions such as diabetes are considered to have an increased risk of subcapsular cataracts. Activities that negatively affect arterial health and raise blood pressure, such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, can also put a person at risk for cataracts. Additional factors that may play a role in cataract development include eye trauma, long-term steroid medication use, and radiation exposure.

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A posterior subcapsular cataract that remains untreated can result in significant visual impairment.

People with subcapsular cataracts may initially notice that colors appear muted and images become increasingly blurred. Night driving is often difficult due to the prevalence of halos surrounding artificial light sources such as headlights. Over time, the ability to read materials from a distance becomes a challenge. The progression of posterior subcapsular cataract symptoms is usually monitored for pronounced changes in your vision.

Eventually, surgery becomes necessary to correct a posterior subcapsular cataract. When the cataract matures and significantly threatens vision, outpatient cataract surgery is usually performed. During the procedure, an ophthalmologist will excise the cloudy lens and place an artificial one in its place. Individuals are usually able to resume normal day-to-day activities within a few days without restrictions. While the risk of retinal detachment is the most concerning, additional risks can include infection and secondary cataract formation.

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