A cataract or cataracts is a condition of the eyes where the person affected finds his or her eyesight deteriorating with time. It is a manageable and treatable complaint. It is usually imperative to visit a doctor when vision starts becoming problematic.
Definition & Facts
The lens sits behind the pupil (the central black circle) in the eye. Normally, light passes through the transparent top layer of the eye (cornea) through the lens and onto light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. A cataract is the clouding of the lens that affects a person’s vision. An individual’s lens becomes foggy or cloudy, worsening as people age.
Symptoms & Complaints
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity and glare sensitivity
- Double vision in one of the eyes
- Witnessing ‘halos’ around lights
- High frequency in changing contact lens and glasses
- Night vision which is poor
- Yellowing or fading of colors
Cataracts develop owing to a variety of reasons. The most common cause is aging. Injury to the lens may also cause one to develop the complaint. Some cataracts are due to genetic disorders which cause other ailments that then predispose a person to the danger of developing cataracts. Some scenarios put someone at risk of developing the condition. These are:
- Large alcohol intake
- Family history of cataracts
- If someone has had eye surgery previously
- High blood pressure
- Corticosteroid usage for a long time
- Eye injury or inflammation in the recent past
- High and sustained exposure to sunlight
- Radiation exposure like in X-rays and cancer radiation treatment
Diagnosis & Tests
Doctors conduct tests to determine whether an individual has cataracts and to rule out ailments that may cause vision impairment. A doctor may review a person’s medical history, investigate the symptoms, and conduct various eye tests. These tests are:
- A visual acuity test—The doctor uses an eye chart to determine how one reads a given number of letters well with one of the eyes closed. The letters are read as the they progressively reduce in size.
- Slit lamp examinations—The doctor uses a lamp and magnification to examine eyes. He or she employs a microscope referred to as the slit lamp. It utilizes an intense beam of light that illuminates the cornea, iris, lens and the region between the iris and cornea. The doctor then sees these sections in minute detail and, therefore, can observe any abnormalities therein.
- Ophthalmoscopy – The doctor uses an ophthalmoscope to investigate the lens.
- Ocular tonometry - The doctor (an optometrist) performs a tonometry test to measure the pressure inside a person’s eye. The doctor numbs a patient’s eye using eye drops for the procedure.
Treatment & Therapy
Early detection of cataracts can help in the management of the condition. A patient’s eyesight may improve through new eyeglasses, magnifying lenses, and anti-glare glasses. Cataract surgery can be effective also, though before those with cataracts decide to have surgery, they should ensure:
- Their contact lenses and eyeglasses are the best prescriptions
- Have better lighting in their homes
- Wear wide-brimmed hats sunglasses when in the sun
- Limit night driving
- Use magnifying glasses for reading
During surgery, the doctor removes the clouded lens and replaces it with an artificial one. The surgeon positions the artificial or intraocular lens where the natural lens was. It becomes part of the eye. The procedure does not require a patient to stay in a hospital. As soon as the surgery is over, a patient may leave. The process occurs under local anesthesia where a doctor numbs the area around the eye. The patient stays awake during the procedure.
Doctors mention that a patient only needs surgery when vision impairment affects his or her everyday activities like watching T.V., driving or reading. In some cases, surgery may be necessary if the cataract prevents the examination and treatment of other eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.
Cataract surgery carries the risk of bleeding and infection. It also puts one in danger of retinal detachment. One may also develop the condition, after-cataract. It is where the tissue covering the intraocular lens becomes cloudy. Doctors treat this development using a painless YAG laser capsulotomy. The physician uses a laser which makes a tiny hole in the eye tissue to let light into the eye.
Prevention & Prophylaxis