The inside of the eye works as a lens, much like the lens of a camera. It focuses the light onto the retina in order to facilitate clear vision. It is also responsible for adjusting the focus of the eye, thus helping us see things at a distance or close up, clearly. A cataract is the clouding of the natural lens of the eye, lying behind the pupil and the iris. The most common reason for the loss of vision in adults aged over 40 years, cataract is the main reason behind blindness throughout the world.
Cataract affects more than 40 million people aged over 40 throughout the world, making it a very serious concern.
Incidences of cataract can be classified into reduces types:
- Cortical Cataract: a cortical cataract, characterized by wedge-like, white opacities begins at the periphery or circumference of the of the eye lens and spreads throughout the eye all the way to the centre in a spoke-like fashion. Cortical cataracts generally occur in the part of the eye lens that surrounds the central nucleus, known as the lens cortex.
- Nuclear Cataract: a nuclear cataract occurs deep inside the central zone or the nucleus of the eye lens. This type of cataract mainly affects people as they age.
- Subcapsular Cataract: a Subcapsular Cataract occurs at the back of the eye lens. People taking high doses of steroid as medication or suffering from diabetes are at a greater risk of developing this type of cataract.
Causes of Cataract
The eye lens is made up of water and protein. The protein is arranged in such a way that the eye lens is clear and lets light pass through it. As we mature, some of the proteins tend to come together to form lumps. These start to cloud a small area of the eye lens, leading to the condition known as a cataract. Over time, these protein lumps grow larger and larger, clouding more area of the lens, thus affecting vision.
Other risk factors of cataract, besides ageing, include the following :
- High myopia
- Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications
- High exposure to ultraviolet radiation due to sunlight or other sources
- Previous eye injury
- Eye inflammation
- History of eye surgery
- Hormone replacement therapy
- High alcohol consumption
Symptoms of Cataract
Cataract conditions usually develop gradually over time. You may not realise that you have cataract until the condition starts interfering with your vision significantly. The following are other symptoms of cataract :
- Trouble with eyeglasses or contact lenses
- Blurry, cloudy, filmy or cloudy vision
- Changes in perception of colors
- Problem while driving at night
- Problems with glare during the day
- Double vision
Diagnosis of Cataract
A retinal exam is performed by your healthcare professional in order to determine if you suffer from cataract.
- Eye drops are dropped into your eyes in order to dilate your pupils, making physical examination of your retina easier.
- A thorough physical examination of your retina is then performed by your healthcare professional using an ophthalmoscope in order to determine the presence of cataract on your retina.
Treatment of Cataract
During the initial stages of the onset of cataract, improvement of the vision is possible by making use of strong bifocal lenses, magnification and appropriate lighting and/or making use of other visual aids in order to arrest the spread of the cataract and treat the pre-existing infection.
Surgery is usually recommended in case your cataract has surpassed the initial stage and has started spreading, having progressed enough to seriously impair your vision and interfere with your daily life.
Cataract surgery is very helpful in restoring proper and clear vision, also guaranteeing a high success rate with 9 out of 10 people undergoing cataract surgery regain very good vision within a few weeks post surgery.
- During the cataract surgery, your surgeon removes the damaged, clouded lens and replaces it with a clear plastic intraocular lens (IOL) that acts as a replacement for your lens.
Prevention of Cataract
- High intake of Vitamin E has profound effects on preventing the onset and spread of cataract in the eyes.
- Dietary consumption of Carotenoids Lutein and Zeaxanthin from food and/or supplements is also associated with significant
- decrease in the risk of contracting cataract.
- Including foods like almonds, sunflower seeds and spinach also minimizes your risk of contracting cataract
- Ingestion of antioxidants rich food such as artichoke and cranberries, as well as drinking Green tea may also reduce cataract risk.
- Food rich in Vitamin C such as lemons, limes and oranges, as well foods containing omega-3 fatty acids also reduce cataract risks.
- Another precaution that you can take in order to reduce your risk of cataract is to wear UV-proof, protective sunglasses when you are out in the sun. These sunglasses block a major share of the Sun’s harmful Ultraviolet rays, thus greatly reducing the harmful effects of sun damage on your eyes, effectively reducing the risk of cataract.
Post Cataract surgery steps
Except in the cases where your eye doctor uses presbyopia-correcting IOLs, you will need reading glasses post surgery. Progressive lenses may also be required in order to correct any residual refractive errors post cataract surgery.
Lenses with anti-reflective coating and photochromic lenses are also good options. Make sure you ask your healthcare professional about their suitability for your case, post-cataract surgery.