Cataracts

Think of how hard it is to see through a frosted window in winter.  Similarly, the lens of the eye can become fogged, resulting in decreased vision. Then lens lies behind the iris, the colored part of the eye. It focuses light onto the retina at the back of the eye which, like the film in a camera, "develops" the picture. A cataract is the name given to the clouding of the normally clear lens. This clouding blocks light from the retina. Cataracts are one of the most common of all causes of impaired vision.

 

What Causes a Cataract?

Clouding of the lens is a natural aging process, which usually begins in the third or fourth decade of life. The age at which a cataract may begin to affect vision varies. This depends on the density of the clouding and the extent of the lens involved. In addition to aging, other well recognized causes of cataracts are:

  • an injury to the eye.
  • Long-term use of certain medications, such as steroids.
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes.
  • Tobacco Use
  • Excessive sunlight & UV Exposure

Less commonly, cataracts may be inherited. There is also some evidence that years of exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun may play a role in cataract development.

 

How Do I Know If I Have a Cataract?

Cataracts usually develop slowly over the years.  They most often form in both eyes, though not usually at the same rate.  A person may or may not be aware that a cataract is developing. The main symptom of cataract formation is painless loss of vision. The visual effects depend on the size, location, and density of the cataract. Common symptoms include:

  • Progressively worsening vision.
  • Blurred, Clouded or double vision.
  • Sensitivity to light and glare.
  • Increased near-sightedness.
  • Difficulty seeing to drive at night.

An ophthalmologist or optometrist can see the earliest evidence of a cataract through sophisticated instruments used to view the inside of the eye. Most cataracts are not visible to the naked eye until they are very mature, or dense (sometimes called “ripe”). In this advanced state, the pupil may appear white or yellowish.

 

What Should Be Done About A Cataract?

Once a cataract has caused visual loss, surgery is the only accepted treatment. The decision to operate should be based on each patient’s individual needs. If a cataract is causing loss of sight that interferes with a person’s normal activities, it is appropriate to consider cataract surgery. A cataract no longer must be “ripe” before it can be removed. In fact, it is easier and safer to remove cataracts before they reach that stage.

Several studies have shown that by improving visual function, cataract surgery may play an important role in the quality of life in patients. A cataract is the name given to the clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. Clouding of the lens is a natural aging process, which usually begins in the third or fourth decade of life. Looking through a cataract is like looking through a frosted window in the winter or through a piece of tissue paper. A Medical Outcomes study found that people who experienced blurred vision once or more per month were at a higher risk for decreased functional status and well-being. The impact of visual impairment on a person was found to be greater than the impact of several other chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and diabetes. People who have poor depth perception and contract sensitivity are at a higher risk for falls, hip fractures, and automobile accidents. These studies show that physical function, emotional well-being, and overall quality of life can be enhanced when visual function is restored by cataract surgery.

 

Normal Vision Cataract Vision

 

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