Cortical cataracts develop when the peripheral area of your eye lens experiences cloudiness from higher water content and proteins clumping. It causes blurry vision and more. Getting surgery can prevent worsening symptoms, which may lead to blindness.

Cortical cataracts start as cloudy streaks at the edge of your lens. They become more common with age.

The lens of your eye is behind your iris and pupil. It’s a circular, transparent structure attached to delicate muscles that change the way your eye focuses. The interior of the lens is its nucleus, and the outer periphery is called the lens cortex.

More than half of the people in the United States have cataracts by 80 years old. They tend to develop slowly and can eventually interfere with your vision. You may experience symptoms like:

Cataracts remain the world’s leading cause of treatable blindness. In the United States, healthcare professionals can treat them relatively easily with surgery to replace your lens with an artificial replacement.

Read on to learn more about cortical cataracts, including how common they are and how to manage this condition.

Cataracts form when your lens becomes cloudy due to an increase in water content and the clumping of proteins. When this process involves the lens cortex, it’s called a cortical cataract.

The most common cause is age-related changes to your eye. Other factors that seem to increase your chances of developing cataracts include:

Factors that may increase the rate that cataracts form include:

  • smoking
  • heavy alcohol consumption
  • frequent exposure to sunlight, especially without eyeglasses

Types of cataracts

Experts subcategorize cataracts, depending on which part of your lens they develop in:

  • Nuclear cataracts: Nuclear cataracts develop in the center of your lens called the nucleus.
  • Cortical cataracts: Cortical cataracts develop in the peripheral zone of your lens called the cortex.
  • Subcapsular cataracts: Subcapsular cataracts develop on the back of your lens.
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A cortical cataract begins as a wedge-shaped area or streaks of cloudiness at the edge of your lens. It can extend to the center of your eye as it progresses. Cortical cataracts can develop slowly or rapidly and can occur by themselves or with nuclear cataracts.

Risk factors

According to the authors of a 2017 research review, nearsighted people tend to have a lower risk of developing cortical cataracts than nuclear cataracts. Farsighted people seem to have a higher risk of developing cortical rather than nuclear cataracts.

A 2019 study involved examining the occurrence of cortical cataracts in 239 people scheduled for cataract surgery between the ages of 50 to 90. The researchers found cortical cataracts in:

In a 2020 study from Singapore, researchers found evidence the following medications were associated with cortical cataracts:

Cataracts are common, affecting more than 24 million people in the United States. Cortical cataracts make up about 22.9% of age-related cataracts.

The risk of age-related cortical cataracts can increase with exposure to ultraviolet light and high blood sugar levels. Studies suggest that genetic factors make up 53% to 75% of your risk of cortical cataracts.

Cortical cataracts on the periphery of your lens might not cause any difficulties with your vision. As your cataracts progress, they might enter your central vision, making it difficult for light to pass through your eyes. These changes can cause symptoms such as:

Most age-related cataracts progress slowly over years, but they can develop quickly in some people.

The progression rate of cataracts increases in people with diabetes. Adequate management of diabetes, high blood pressure, and dyslipidemia appears to help manage cataract progression.

Cortical cataracts may require surgery if they impact your vision. Surgery involves replacing your lens with an artificial replacement lens. The surgery is one of the safest surgeries doctors perform in the United States and is often highly effective.

Learn more about cataract surgery.

Cataracts are progressive. Getting treatment may prevent your vision from worsening. Untreated, mature cataracts can leak degenerated lens proteins inside the eye, generate elevated intraocular pressure, and incite a severe inflammatory reaction.

The rate that cataracts progress varies significantly between people, but they can eventually lead to legal blindness or complete blindness without surgery.

Find more information on cataracts

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Cataracts are areas of the lens of the eye that lose transparency. Cortical cataracts develop on the outer edge of your lens.

Cortical cataracts might cause changes to your vision, such as blurriness or double vision, if they progress into your central vision. Currently, the only potential cure for cataracts available is surgery. Cataract surgery is generally highly safe and effective.