Overview | How It Looks? | Types | Causes | Symptoms | Risks factors | Diagnosis | Treatment |Recovery, and complications of surgery | Prevention |
What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a medical condition that involves dense clouding of the natural lens of the eyes, which lies behind the iris and pupil. A cataract occurs when protein in the eyes forms clumps that prevent the lens from sending clear images to the retina. Cataract generally occurs in both eyes, but in some cases, it can develop in one eye only. Those who have a cataract in one eye can lead to further development of cataracts in the other eye also. Although, it is not a contagious disease, means it can not spread from one eye to the other or from one individual to the other individual. A cataract is generally considered a consequence of old age because it usually develops after 40 years of age. At first, it would not cause any problem to your vision but later on, it harms your vision to such an extent that you make you unable to do your daily work.
Fact: Cataract is the most common cause of vision loss, worldwide. In India, about 1 million cases of cataracts are recorded per year.
What happens to your eyes while having cataract disease?
The lens of the eyes focuses the light rays to the retina, which makes the image and passes it to the nerve cell through a chemical reaction. Then, the nerve cell passes the signals of the image to your brain through an electrical response. The brain then interprets what the eyes are seeing. For all this, the lens of the eyes must be clear enough to focus the light rays.
A cataract forms a dense clouding on the eyes lens which makes it difficult for the retina to take the light signals accurately. And thus, it affects your vision.
How do cataracts will look like?
In the beginning, your eyes may look normal to the observer. But later on, the pupil of the eyes will turn grey or whitish, which is a sign of the maturity of the cataract. This will lead to vision loss or unclear vision. Your ophthalmologist can easily diagnose the cataract.
Although cataract does not cause itchiness, redness or any pain in the eye, and it treatable too.
Types of cataract:
The types of cataracts based on where and how the cataract is developed. The different types of cataracts are as follows —
- Nuclear cataracts – It forms in the middle of the lens and causes the nucleus and center of the eyes to yellow or brown.
- Cortical cataract – It forms around the edges of the nucleus and is wedge-shaped.
- Posterior capsular cataract – It affects the backside of the lens and spreads faster than the two above-mentioned types of cataracts.
- Traumatic cataract – An injury to the eyes can result in a traumatic cataract. But it takes several years to occur.
- Radiation cataract – Radiation treatment of cancer or any other diseases can lead to this type of cataract.
- Congenital cataract – This is a different kind than others, as it occurs in the infants with their birth or within a year of birth.
- Secondary cataract – It is caused by diseases such as diabetes, glaucoma, etc. Or some certain medications like steroids etc.
Causes of cataract:
- Family History
- Alcohol consumption
- High myopia
- An overproduction of oxidation
- Radiation therapy
- Ultraviolet radiation
- Cholesterol reducing medicines
- Certain diseases like diabetes etc.
- Previous eye injury
- Prolonged consumption of certain medications, such as steroids, etc.
- Inflammation of the eyes
- Genetic illness such as down syndrome
- Hormone replacement therapy etc.
Symptoms of cataract:
- Decrease in clarity of vision
- Loss of contrast sensitivity
- Disturbed glare
- Diminished night vision
- Double vision (sometimes)
- Light seems too glaring
- Increased sensitivity of the eyes towards the light
- Visible halos around bright lights
- Blurry, cloudy, hazy vision
- Need of brighter light for work than before
- Frequent changes in eyeglasses or contact lens prescription etc.
- Old age
- Family history
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Previous eye injuries
- Prolonged consumption of corticosteroid medications
- Tobacco consumption
- Trauma to the eye
- High blood pressure
- Too much exposure
- Radiation exposure
- Inflammation of the eyes
- Surgery of the eyes
Diagnosis of cataract is quite easy nowadays, thanks to the development of science. Apart from reviewing your medical history, your doctor can conduct some tests.
Some tests that can help to diagnose the cataract disease are as follows —
- Retinal exam – In this, your doctor will dilate your eyes with eye drops to get a better view inside your eyes. Dilating eyes cause your pupil to open slowly. Then, your doctor will check your retina and optic nerve in the backside of your eyes. This exam can also easily diagnose cataract formation.
- Slit-lamp exam – A device having a large binocular microscope with a bright light source mounted is called a slit-lamp. Through this device, your doctor can easily examine your eyes for cataract formation and other issues, with high magnification.
- Visible acuity test – This test includes an eye chart to measure how well you can read a series of letters. While doing so with your left eye, your right eye must be covered and vice versa. Through a device, your doctor determines whether you have 20/20 vision or your eyes are getting impaired or cataract development.
- Tonometry test: In this, your doctor will use a painless puff of air to flatten your cornea and test your eye pressure.
The easiest way (nonsurgical)versa for better eyesight is to use high power glasses, this can make your eyesight better to an acceptable extent while having cataract.
But there are some surgical options also, through which you can remove the cataract from your eyes and life as well. They are —
- Phacoemulsification – This surgery can break the lens apart and remove the pieces, through ultrasound waves.
- Extracapsular surgery – In this, doctors remove the cloudy part of the lens through a long incision in the cornea and an artificial intraocular lens are placed in the place of the natural lens, after surgery.
Although one should go for surgery only when a cataract makes you unable to do your daily work, such as reading, driving etc. Or interferes in the treatment of other eye problems. Cataract surgery is quite safe and you can go home on the same day of the surgery.
Complications of surgery:
Less than 1 % patients experience post-surgery complications, such as infection, bleeding or retinal detachment.
After surgery, you can feel some discomfort but your eyes will heal within eight weeks.
There is no study to prove that cataract is preventable. But there are some factors which can decrease the risk of getting cataract if avoided —
- Have regular eye check-ups
- Quit alcohol, smoking and tobacco
- Manage other health problems, especially those which can lead to cataract, like diabetes
- Have a healthy diet
- Consume fresh fruits and vegetables
- Wear sunglasses etc.