What is Cataract?
Normally, Cataract is an opacity or clouding of clear, crystalline, and transparent lens of our eyes that cause changes in the vision. The lens is present behind the pupil, iris, and the lens is transparent in nature. The lens helps to focus images in the retina. Cataracts can interfere with daily activities and even leads to blindness if left untreated.
Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the world. It is painless and develops slowly with time. It causes a part of the lens to become cloudy. Light doesn’t pass through the lens easily and vision is disrupted. The cloudier the lens, the worse the vision seems to be.
Mostly, it occurs in older people but sometimes can occur in younger ones and even in newborn babies too. According to statistics of the World Health Organization, Cataracts have been reported to be responsible for 51% of the world blindness, which represents approximately 20 million people.
Generally, Cataracts develop in both eyes but not evenly. Good thing is that Surgery can get rid of cataracts. It is safe and corrects vision problems that are caused by cataracts.
Exact cause of cataract is idiopathic. But commonly they develop with ageing i.e. as you grow older, you will be at higher risk of developing cataract. Some genetic disorders that cause health problems can also increase the risk of having cataract.
Furthermore, Various Studies suggest that following given factors also play an important role in developing cataracts.
- Due to Long term steroid use
- Ocular trauma or injuries
- Personal habits (Smoking/ Alcohol)
- Exposure to radiation from X-rays and Cancer Treatment.
- Health condition of mother before birth like German measles in the mother
- Hereditary cause
- High myopia
- Previous Eye Surgery
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Initially, cataract has very little effects in vision. Stronger lighting conditions and prescription eyeglasses can help you to deal with vision problems caused by cataract. But if vision interferes, you might need surgery too.
You may notice little blur of vision which can be corrected by vision correction tools too. With time, it will progress and you may observe the following signs and symptoms.
- Blurry, foggy or cloudy vision
- Myopia ( in older people)
- Problem driving at night due to glare issue.
- Difficulty in recognizing people’s faces
- Frequent change in the prescription.
- Trouble with vision correction devices like spectacles.
- Difficulty in discerning colours
- Poor night vision
- Drivers having cataract can experience eyestrain. They seem to blink more to clear their blurred vision.
- Visible milky or yellowish spot may appear in pupil
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle may help to slow down the risks of developing cataract to some extent. Protecting eyes from UV rays while outdoors, quitting smoking, controlling blood sugar levels, etc helps to decrease the risks in a significant manner.
What are the types of cataract?
There are various types of cataracts which are as follows.
Age Related Cataracts
Most common types of cataracts. 95% of the cataracts accounts for age related cataracts which occur usually after age of 40.
Cataracts can form in different zones/ places on the lens. Different types can develop and progress at variable rates. Following are the types of age related cataracts.
- Nuclear Cataracts
It is the most common type of age related cataract associated with ageing and forms in the center of the lens i.e. at the nucleus to become yellowish or brown in color.
Initially, it may cause nearsightedness. But with time, the lens gradually turns to yellow and brown.
- Cortical Cataracts
Cortical Cataract begins on the outside edge of the lens(peripheral). Appears as whitish, wedge-shaped opacities or streaks on the outer edge of the lens cortex. With time, it progresses and those streaks extend to the center and interfere with the light passing through the center.
It can be the result of ageing, trauma or even illness.
- Posterior Subcapsular Cataracts
It affects the back of the lens and even progresses faster than other types.
Present at birth or appear shortly after or at some time during infancy or childhood. Usually caused by infection during pregnancy or may be genetic condition.They are less common that age related cataracts. They don’t always affect vision but if they do, they are usually removed soon.
Long-term medications use or diseases are the main cause of secondary cataracts. Diseases that are associated with the development of cataract include diabetes and glaucoma.
Long term use of steroid medication or any other medicines may lead to cataracts.
Trauma is the most common cause of unilateral cataract in young ones. It is caused when the lens gets damaged after blunt or penetrating ocular trauma or with chemical burns.
If a patient undergoes radiation therapy for treatment of cancer then he/she may be at risk of developing cataracts too.
Diagnosis of cataracts?
One can diagnose cataracts by performing a series of comprehensive eye examinations.
The examination includes history taking so as to know about the problem that the patient is facing. Then measure visual acuity so as to determine to what extent the cataract is. Similarly, Perform refraction tests to know the exact prescription glasses. Examination of eyes including lens, retina as well as the optic disc is done using slit lamp after dilating pupil. Furthermore, measure eye pressure, perform color vision, and contrast sensitivity.
If necessary, further testing may require. Using information from the series of tests, eye care professionals will determine if you have cataract. And advice will be given accordingly.
How can you treat cataract?
Surgery is the only option to get rid of cataract. But stages of cataract will let you know whether it’s ready for surgery or not. Because in early cataract you can manage vision wearing prescription glasses or contact lenses.
Though prescription keeps on changing frequently in cataract eyes . Once if prescription stops working and cataract starts affecting your daily activities then you can go for surgery.
Ophthalmologist performs surgery and removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a new artificial lens called Intraocular Lens or, IOL. Cataract Surgery will restore your vision and you don’t need to face any vision issues.