A cataract is a dense clouding that forms in the clear lens of the eye. It is a slow developing problem that interferes with your vision over time. It can cause clouded vision which can lead to difficulty doing normal things like driving, reading, or seeing other people’s facial expression.
A cataract occurs as a result of formation of clumps of proteins in the eye which can prevent the lens from sending clear images to the retina. The retina is responsible for converting light that enters through the lens into signals which are then sent to the optic nerve which finally sends them to the brain.
Types of Cataracts
Cataracts are classified based on where and how they developed in the eye. Types of cataracts include:
- Congenital cataracts: These are present at birth or form within the child’s first year. These types of cataracts may be due to an intrauterine trauma or infection as well as genetic.
- Nuclear cataracts: These form in the middle of the lens causing its center or nucleus to become brown or yellow resulting in clouded vision. It can lead to difficulty in distinguishing shades of color.
- Cortical cataracts: These are whitish, wedged-shaped streaks that form around the outer edge of the lens. With time the streaks extend to the nucleus or center and interferes with light that passes through the center of the eye.
- Posterior subcapsular cataracts: These start as small opaque areas at the back of the lens, right in the light path. This type of cataract reduces vision in bright light, interferes with reading, and causes halos or glares around lights at night. They tend to progress faster than other types of cataracts.
- Traumatic cataracts: These are caused by an injury to the eye and can take several years to develop.
- Secondary cataracts: These are caused by medication or diseases such as diabetes or glaucoma.
- Radiation cataracts: These can develop after an individual has undergone radiation treatment for cancer.
Causes of Cataracts
Most cataracts develop due to injury or aging which cause changes in the tissue that makes up the eye’s lens. Some genetic disorders can cause health problems that can increase the risk of developing cataracts.
Some of the underlying causes of cataracts include:
- Long term use of medications or steroids
- Overproduction of oxidants
- Ultraviolet radiation
- Certain diseases such as diabetes
- Radiation therapy
Symptoms of Cataracts
Symptoms that are associated with cataracts include:
- Blurry or clouded vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Seeing colors as faded
- Seeing halos around lights
- Double vision in a single eye
- Need for frequent changes in prescription eye ware
Risk Factors of Cataracts
The risk of developing cataracts can be increased by:
- Older age
- Heavy use of alcohol
- Previous eye trauma
- Family history of cataracts
- Over exposure to the sun
- Exposure to radiation
- Prolonged use of certain medication
Diagnosing cataracts involves your physician performing an eye examination and reviewing your symptoms and medical history.
Several tests may be conducted, and they include:
- Tonometry test: This involves flattening the cornea using a painless puff of air to test the eye pressure.
- Slit-lamp examination: This allows the physician to see structures at the front of the eye under magnification to look for any abnormalities.
- Visual acuity test: This is an eye test to measure how well a person can read a series of letters. It involves testing one eye at a time while the other is covered. It can determine if the person has a 20/20 vision or if his/her vision is impaired.
- Retinal examination: This test involves a physician putting drops in the eyes of a patient to dilate the pupils so as to make it easier for him/her to examine the retina.
Treatment of Cataracts
Cataracts treatment involves managing the symptoms which can include using stronger eyeglasses, magnifying lenses, and sunglasses with an antiglare coating. However, when the above do not clear your vision, surgery is the only remaining and effective option.
Cataract surgery is done on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia and it involves removing and replacing the clouded lens with an artificial lens known as the intraocular lens.
For individuals who have other conditions that could be preventing them from using an artificial lens, their vision may be corrected with contact lenses or eyeglasses once the faulty cataract is removed.
Healing from cataract surgery generally takes about four weeks.
If cataract surgery is needed in both eyes, two surgeries will have to be done which will involve one eye at a time. The second surgery is done on the second eye once the first eye has healed from the first surgery. Cataract surgery is considered fairly safe and with a high success rate.
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