The eye and the lens
The crystalline lens in our eye is similar to the lens in a camera. It actively focuses images on the retina, the light-sensitive film at the back of the eye. This lens must be transparent to produce a clear sharp image.
What is a cataract?
Cataract is the leading cause of vision loss among adults aged 60 plus. Statistics show that 90 percent of the population develop cataract by the time they turn 70. Even though it is easily treated, cataract still remains the leading cause of blindness in the world, and accounting for more than 2 million surgeries per year.
The origin of the word "cataract" is from the Greek word kataraktes, means that something is rushing or swooping down. Cataract's meaning is the progressive clouding or opacification of the crystalline lens in the eye. This lens in our eye is similar to the lens in a camera. It actively helps in focusing images on the retina, the light sensitive film at the back of the eye. This lens must be transparent to produce a clear sharp image. The causes and mechanism of cataract formation are not completely understood. But most common cataract is a sign of aging.
The main causes of cataract are:
- Age related: Cataract incidence increases with age, and is more likely to be seen after 60 years
- Congenital: This is when cataract is present at birth
- Secondary: When cataract is linked to other conditions like diabetes, malnutrition and chronic eye disease
- Radiation: Sometimes after radiation exposure, a person may be affected by cataract.
- Traumatic: This is the result of an injury.
Do I have a cataract?
Cataracts can cause a variety of visual problems such as:
- Foggy or misty vision as if looking through a steamed window
- Difficulty in reading despite new glasses
- Glare in bright lights and sunlight, especially in urban built-up areas
- Poor night vision particularly during driving
- Double or multiple images
- Difficulty in either differentiating or appreciating colors
- Frequent change in the power of spectacles
- If you have any of the above symptoms, you might be developing a cataract. Your ophthalmologist will be able to confirm this.
How is it treated?
Cataract can be treated only through surgery, while spectacles may temporarily correct some of the visual difficulties caused by early cataract. Cataract surgery has excellent visual results
Over the years, there have been many methods of removing cataracts. Techniques have been evolving with new technology and instruments.
Will I require spectacles after surgery?
Since the intraocular lens has a fixed focus, this is usually targeted for distance enabling clear distance vision without spectacles. The spectacle will be required, however, for all close work including reading. For those who are keen, options are available that will allow complete freedom from spectacles following cataract surgery. Your surgeon will tell you more.
When should I consider surgery?
Cataract can be surgically removed. It is important to remove cataract early as it hardens with time, as they mature.
Cataract surgery should be considered as soon as it interferes with one's daily activities. This would depend on one's occupation and hobbies. The decision regarding the timing of surgery is however in the hands of the treating doctor.