What is Cataract?
A cataract is a progressive, painless clouding of the natural, internal lens of the eye. Cataracts block light, making it difficult to see clearly. Over an extended period of time, cataracts can cause blindness. They’re often related to growing older, but sometimes they can develop in younger people too. It is related with a buildup of protein on the eye lens.
How cataracts affect your vision?
The lens inside the eye works much like a camera lens. In a normal eye, light enters and passes through the lens. The lens focuses that light into a sharp image on the retina which relays messages through the optic nerve to the brain. It also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is mostly made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurry. Over the time blurry vision can lead to complete blindness.
The most common symptom of cataracts is blurry vision at any distance. Whatever you view shall appear foggy, filmy, or cloudy. Over time, as the cataracts get worse, less light reaches the retina. People with cataracts may have an especially hard time seeing and driving at night.
Another early symptom of cataracts is glare or sensitivity to light. You may have trouble seeing in bright sunlight. Indoor lights that once didn’t bother you now may seem too bright or appear like halos. Driving at night may become a problem because of the glare caused by street lights and oncoming headlights.
Sometimes, cataracts can cause double vision (also known as diplopia) when you look with one eye. This is different from the double vision that comes from the eyes not lining up properly. With cataracts, images appear double even with one eye open.
Cataracts can affect your color vision, making some hues look faded. Your vision may gradually take on a brownish or yellowish tinge. At first, you may not notice this discoloration. But over time, it may make it harder to distinguish blues and purples.
Sometimes, a cataract may temporarily improve a person’s ability to see close-up, because the cataract acts as a stronger lens. This phenomenon is called second sight, because people who may have once needed reading glasses find that they don’t need them anymore. As the cataract worsens however, this goes away and vision worsens again.
Sometimes cataract can be detected with frequent changes in your eyeglass or contact lenses prescriptions. As the disease is progressive these frequent changes will lead to the other advanced symptoms of the disease.
Who Gets Cataracts?
The majority of cataracts are related to aging. Babies are sometimes born with cataracts, also called congenital cataracts. Children may also develop cataract as a result of injury or illness. Eye traumas at any age can also lead to this development in the eye.
What Causes cataracts?
Cataract results mainly because of the reason that proteins clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. Over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see. There are many reasons that cause cataracts. The most common are:
- Excess alcohol use
- Eye Injury
- Prolonged use of corticosteroids (drugs)
- Prolonged exposure to sunlight or radiation
How are Cataracts Diagnosed?
Most cataracts ca be diagnosed with an easy eye examination. Your eye doctor will test your vision and examine your eyes with a slit lamp microscope to look for problems with the lens and other parts of the eye. The pupils are dilated to better examine the inner eye, where the retina and the optic nerve lie.
Surgery for Cataracts
Surgery is needed when you have vision loss caused by cataracts that can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. In cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with artificial lens. The surgery, which is done on an outpatient basis is safe and extremely effective at improving vision. If cataracts are present in both eyes, surgery will be done on one eye at a time.
Types of Cataract Surgery
There are two types of cataract surgery. In the more common type, called phacoemulsification (phaco), the doctor makes a tiny incision in the eye and breaks up the lens using ultrasound waves. The lens is removed, and an intraocular lens (IOL) is put in its place. In most modern cataract surgeries the IOL eliminates the need for thick glasses or a contact lens after surgery.
Cataract Surgery Innovations
Recent developments in cataract surgery can correct both near and distance vision. They minimize or eliminate the need for reading glasses after surgery. Conventional “monofocal” lenses only correct distance vision, meaning reading glasses are still needed after surgery. “Toric” implants are available to correct astigmatism. A lens for better color vision is in development.
What to Expect after Surgery
For few days after your surgery, eyes may be itchy and sensitive to light. You may be prescribed drops to aid healing. A protective eye shield or glasses needs to be used. It takes about eight weeks for your eye to heal completely, though your vision should begin to improve soon after surgery. You may still need glasses, at least occasionally, for distance or reading as well as a new prescriptions after healing is complete.
Cataract Surgery Risks
Complications from cataract surgery are rare. The most common risks are bleeding, infection and changes in eye pressure, which are all treatable when caught early. Surgery slightly raises the risk of retinal detachment, which requires emergency treatment. Sometimes, lens tissue left after surgery and used to support the IOL can become cloudy, even years after surgery. This “after cataract’ is easily and permanently corrected with a laser.
Should You Have Cataract Surgery?
Whether or not to have cataract surgery is up to you and your doctor. Rarely cataracts need to be removed right away. Cataracts affect vision slowly over a period of time. Many people wait to have surgery until glasses or contacts no longer improve their vision enough. If you don’t feel that your cataracts are causing problems in your day-to-day life, choose to wait.
Tips to Prevent Cataracts
Though cataracts is associated with ageing. Some tips that lower your risk of developing cataracts.
- Avoid smoking.
- Always wear a hat or sunglasses in the sun.
- Keep diabetes well controlled.
- Limit alcohol consumption.
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