All You Need To Know About Cataract

Many assume cataract is vision problems in the elderly since it is estimated that half the people who reach the age of 80 years are going to develop cataract. Did you know? That’s just half of the story. If you’re approaching 40 or may have passed that mark, here is more information and insights for all you need to know about cataract.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the naturally clear lens of the eye which lies behind the iris and the pupil that is responsible for vision. Cataract can occur in one eye or both the eyes but it’s not contagious! The lens must be clear for the retina to receive a sharp image. However, if the lens is cloudy due to cataract, the image you see will be blurred.

Types of cataract

Cataract can be categorised under various categories such as:

  • Subcapsular cataract that occurs at the back of the lens. If you are diabetic or have been taking high doses of steroid medications, then you are at a greater risk of developing subcapsular cataract.
  • The nuclear cataract forms deep in the nucleus of the lens and is usually associated with aging.
  • The cortical cataract is characterised by white, wedge-like opacities that start at the periphery of the lens and work their way to the centre in a spoke-like fashion. This type of cataract occurs in the cortex, which is part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.

Symptoms and signs of cataract

A cataract usually starts out small. Initially, it has a very little effect on your vision. You may notice that a little blurred vision – almost like looking through a cloudy piece of glass. The light from the sun or a lamp seems too bright or glaring or you notice when you drive at night, the oncoming headlights causes more glare than ever. Colours may appear dull too. If you pay attention, you can recognise some of their symptoms in the less advanced stages. The symptoms of early cataract may be solved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting or anti-glare sunglasses to some extent. In case these measures do not help, probably you need a surgery.

What causes cataract?

The lens of the eye works much like a camera lens and it is mostly made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets the light pass through, but as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. It may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see. Researchers worldwide have identified factors that may cause cataracts besides advancing age:

  • Ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Prolonged use of medications like corticosteroid
  • Medicines used to reduce cholesterol
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Significant alcohol consumption
  • Family history

Cataract may affect only one eye

It’s more common to develop “bilateral cataracts,” but some people are only affected on one side. This can happen when you suffer from a trauma to one eye. It is always recommended that you see an eye doctor if you’ve suffered any type of incident or accident around your eyes. Cataract affects in different forms: A cataract can affect in a different way for different people. Some can develop this disease and see perfectly fine, however, with the only difference being that light affects them more than other people. Others may have difficulty when there is little light or at night, but in natural light, they see well.

You may not need to do surgery

Ask the doctor if the surgery is really needed. Sometimes, some medications and regular visits to the eye doctor might avoid the need for a surgery. Only your doctor can tell you if you have cataract and the best procedure is surgery.

Prevention of cataract

Visit your eye doctor at least once a year to prevent the occurrence of cataract and other eye disorders as you age. They will tell you if you have a specific problem or if there actually are any signs of cataract. Eat healthy to slow their progression.

Do you need glasses? A really quick guide to tell how your eyes are doing

image courtesy: eduguide.org
image courtesy: eduguide.org

In this day and age, with so many screens to stare at, stress, falling diet quality, pollution and so many other similar factors  (including genetics), eyes are hit just as hard as other parts of the body. The problem is, we rarely recognise it and may put off going to an ophthalmologist till the problem has a reached a point of aggravation that could have been avoided with a little bit of foresight.

Here is a really quick guide that will help you figure out that the time has come to read those famous alphabets that you see in an eye specialist’s clinic: Continue reading Do you need glasses? A really quick guide to tell how your eyes are doing