Having a cataract is like looking through a haze or fog. Cataracts develop slowly and usually, you don’t notice them until they start affecting your lifestyle.
A cataract occurs when the lens of your eye becomes cloudy and makes your vision misty. Normally, the light passes to the retina through the transparent optical lens. This light is changed into nerve signals in the retina and transmitted to your brain which recognizes the image.
But as people grow older, the proteins in the lens clump together and cloud over your lens creating a blurred vision. You may not notice any symptoms in the early stages. However, the severity increases over time and the cataract expands across your lens. Delayed treatment of cataract may cause blindness.
Here is a guide that provides you with information about the causes, symptoms, and available treatment for this condition in order to increase your awareness on cataract.
Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. Cataracts are considered the leading cause of blindness in individuals over 40 years of age. However, cataracts can occur in people of any age as a result of various other factors which include:
- Excess alcohol consumption
- History of smoking
- Family history of cataract
- Exposure to UV light
- Long-term use of steroid medications
- Eye injury
- High blood pressure
- Nutritional deficiency (low levels of vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids)
- Radiation therapy
Initially, you may not notice any symptoms. The location of the cataract in your eye and its size determines the symptoms you face. You may experience following signs:
- Cloudy and blurred vision
- Increased sensitivity to bright light
- Decrease in distance vision
- Double vision (a condition called diplopia)
- Impairment of colo+r vision
- Poor vision in sunlight
- Noticeable cloudiness in your pupil
It can occur in one or both the eyes but cannot spread from one eye to another.
The treatment for cataract is based on the severity of visual impairment. If it does not affect your vision or minimally affects it, then you may not require any treatment. In such cases, you’re suggested to undergo regular check-ups and watch out for the effects on your vision.
If the condition is moderate, your doctor may suggest changing the eyeglass prescription which provides a temporary vision improvement. Additionally, use of anti-glare coatings on eyeglass lenses reduces the glare for driving and increases the amount of light used when reading.
When cataracts affect your daily activities and quality of life, your doctor might suggest a surgery. A surgery is the only way to restore your normal vision. The surgery lasts about 30 minutes, and you can experience improved vision the very next day. There are three types of cataract surgeries that include:
- Small incision cataract surgery: It is also known as phacoemulsification which is the most common type of cataract surgeries. During the procedure, a small incision is made on the right side of your eye, and a tiny probe is inserted. This probe emits ultrasound waves that soften and break the lens into pieces. The lens is then suctioned away.
- Extracapsular surgery: During the procedure, a longer incision is made on the front of your eye and the cloudy layer of the lens is removed in one piece. The rest is suctioned out of the eye capsule. After fitting the new intraocular lens, the incisions are closed with tiny, invisible stitches.
- Laser-assisted cataract surgery: To avoid the use of a handheld blade to make the incision, you can choose a precise laser to make the cuts. The laser beam also helps to break down the cloudy layer cataract.
As with any surgery, cataract surgery also poses certain risk such as infection and bleeding. However, your doctor will instruct you certain measures to reduce those risks. Cataract surgery is considered as one of the most effective and safe procedures in the surgical field and considerably improves the quality of life of the patient if done successfully.