Cataracts is a condition that affects the lens of the eye. It forms a cloud on the naturally clear lens gradually degrading visual quality. It therefore makes it difficult for people to read, drive at night and so on. Cataracts mostly develop slowly and may not interfere with vision for a while but eventually it can start to affect your eyesight. This makes it common for people with cataracts to be unaware they have it. Cataracts normally affect both eyes but it is not uncommon for it to affect only one eye. When this disease starts to interfere with daily life, it can easily be treated with cataracts surgery which is a safe and effective procedure.
Congenital Cataracts : This type of cataracts is either acquired by birth or developed during the first year of life. It is also known as infantile cataracts and may result from an infection the mother developed when pregnant or certain inherited syndrome such as Alport’s syndrome. Congenital cataracts require prompt surgical removal as it may affect normal development of the eye.
Nuclear Cataracts : This type affects the center of the eye. This is the most common type of cataracts. It may cause you to be nearsighted. Nuclear cataracts may cause your lens to turn yellow further clouding your vision. Patients may see double images and as the disease progresses, distinguishing between shades of colors become a problem.
Cortical Cataracts : It starts as whitish, wedge-shaped opacities at the outer edges of the lens and progresses slowly to the center of the lens. It therefore interferes with light passing through the center of the lens and such patients have a problem with glare.
Posterior subcapsular cataracts : A small, opaque area usually forms near the back of the lens right in the path of light going to the retina. This type may interfere with your reading and reduce your vision in bright light. It can happen rapidly and affect your vision suddenly.
Age-related Cataracts : This type develop as a result of aging.
Secondary Cataracts : They occur as a result of medical condition such as diabetes, or exposure to toxins and certain medications like diuretics.
Traumatic Cataract : This occurs from injury to the eye.
Cataracts occur when changes occur in the tissue of the eye’s lens due to aging, medical conditions, injury to the eye or inherited disorders. The lens which is made up mostly of water and protein is located behind the colored part of the eye, the iris. The main duty of the lens is to focus light that passes into your eye, producing clear, sharp images on the retina. Cataracts occur when there is a buildup of protein in the lens that makes it cloudy and this prevents light from passing through the lens causing loss of vision. Age also alters the lens making it less flexible, less transparent and thicker causing tissues to break down and to clump together, clouding small areas of the lens.
Some factors may increase your chances of getting cataracts. They include:
- family history of cataracts
- old age
- extended use of corticosteroid medications
- excessive drinking
- high blood pressure
- exposure to ionising radiation such as x-rays
- exposure to excessive sunlight
- previous eye surgery or eye injury
Signs and symptoms of cataracts include the following :
- cloudy, blur or foggy vision
- double vision
- sensitivity to glare and light.
- increased nearsightedness
- dulled color vision
- frequent changes of eye glasses or contact lenses
- seeing halos around light
- increased difficulty seeing at night
TEST AND DIAGNOSIS
Your doctor will perform a series of tests to check if you have cataracts.
Visual acuity test : It measures how well you can see at various distances. Your eyes are tested one at a time while the other eye is covered. Using a chart with letters that decrease in size, your doctor tests your vision.
Pupil dilation : Eye drops are used to dilate your pupil and your ophthalmologist further examine the lens and retina to check for signs of cataracts.
Tonometry : This standard test measures fluid pressure in your eye. Increased pressure may indicate glaucoma.
Slit-lamp examination : The slit-lamp allows doctors to see structures at the front of your eye under magnification. This helps your doctor determine tiny abnormalities that may be present.
Contrast sensitivity testing : This checks for your ability to differentiate between shades of gray. This ability is often limited by cataracts.
The only effective way to treat cataracts is surgery however there is no rush to removethe cataracts. Surgery is only essential when cataracts starts to affects your way of life. Otherwise doctors will just monitor cataract carefully to see if it’s getting worse. Many people with cataracts get along very well with the help of eyeglasses, contacts, and other vision aids.
Cataracts surgery : This is an outpatient procedure. One eye is done first and the second eye is done a few weeks later. The surgery involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a plastic lens implant. Some people with other eye problems that limit them from using replacement lens may just have cataracts removed and vision corrected with eye glasses or contact lenses. This surgery is usually safe but may carry a risk of bleeding and infection.
The exact cause of cataracts is unknown so there is no known way of preventing the disease. However there are steps you can take to limit your chances of getting cataracts. They include :
Have regular eye exam.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Wear hats or sunglasses when you are in the sun.
Eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.
Take care of health issues like diabetes and high blood pressure.