What is it?
A cataract is the clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. It is not a growth or a development of a film over the eye but just a clouding of the clear lens of the eye.
The lens lies behind the iris and the pupil. The lens works like a camera by focusing the incoming light onto the retina and it also adjusts the eye's focus, letting us see things that are both close and far away. The protein present in the lens is arranged in a precise way to keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. In case of a cataract some of the protein has clumped together and has formed a cloud in a small area of the lens. Over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see. It commonly occurs in older people. It can be treated by surgery.Types of Cataracts
1. A nuclear cataract is located in the centre of the lens, the nucleus is most commonly seen as it forms. It is said that the cause of this cataract is due to changes in the protein structure as we age
2. A cortical cataract starts of on the outside of the lens and slowly extends to the centre. This cataract is common for people with diabetes
3. A subcapsular cataract begins at the back of the lens. People who have a higher risk of developing this form of cataract are: people with diabetes, high farsightedness, retinitis pigmentosa or those taking high doses of steroids.Symptoms:
Each type of cataract has its own symptoms. With a nuclear cataract you may notice an improvement in your near vision. This is called 'second sight'. However when the cataract gets worse the vision will worsen as well. A subcapsular cataract may not show any symptoms in the beginning, but will at a later stage when it is more developed.
Some of the common symptoms are:
· Blurring of vision
· Poor night vision
· Fading of color perception
· Light sensitivity
· Decresead vision
· Double vision or multiple images in one eye. (This symptom may clear as the cataract gets larger.)
· Glare. Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights. Who are at Risk?
Cataracts are common in older people. It develops as a part of the normal ageing process and is common in people above 60 years of age. Causes:
The most common cause of cataract is ageing. But other factors contribute to the development of cataracts as well. These are:
· Diabetes and Arthritis
· Prolonged exposure to sunlight
· Some of the blood pressure lowering medications causes cataracts as a side effect.Diagnosis:
Cataracts are easily diagnosable with an eye examination. Any changes in your vision must be reported to your GP or eye specialist to prevent the onset if cataracts.Treatment:
Cataracts are easily treatable by surgery. The cloudy lens of the eye is removed and is replaced with an intraocular lens implant to restore the vision in the eyes. Most surgeries are performed as Day procedures and do not require hospitalisation overnight.
In 25% of the population, the capsule that supports the lens in the eye becomes cloudy again after the surgery and will require reintervention. Laser surgery is then performed to correct this and restore vision. Complications:
Cataract surgeries are very successful when performed by experienced surgeons. About 85% of people who have undergone surgery have sufficient vision to drive a car. Complications are rare when post surgery guidelines are properly adhered to.Prevention:
There are studies being conducted on the prevention of cataracts. However, adequate sun protection and abstinence from smoking are agreed upon as methods to prevent the risk of development of cataracts.Things to remember:
· Cataracts are a common cause of reduced vision in the elderly
· Sun protection and quitting smoking can greatly help to prevent or delay the development of cataracts
· Cataract surgery is safe and effective in the treatment of cataracts.