Medical quality assurance by Dr. Albrecht Nonnenmacher, MD at March 10, 2016

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

Cataracts are slow in development as they take years to grow. The affected person may not notice the ailment till later in life. The following symptoms can indicate that someone has cataracts though these are also symptoms of other eye conditions:


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:

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

At present, no definitive prevention measures exist, but doctors advise to do the following:

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