What are cataracts?
When the lens located inside the human eye gets cloudy, it is called a cataract. A cataract in Latin means waterfall, thus describing what your vision with cataract is like; seeing through a waterfall. A cataract occurs as a result of the inability of the lens to allow sufficient light into the eye, subsequently leading to unclear vision. The condition is very troublesome. Having a cataract is like having a dusty window in front of your eye.
Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40 and are the main cause of blindness in the world. According to Prevent Blindness America (PBA), there are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined.
Causes of cataracts
The lens inside the human eye helps to focus light on the retina for clear vision. It also helps to adjust the focus of the eyes thus helping us to see things up close as well as far away. This lens is mainly comprised of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way so that the lens is clear and light passes through it clearly.
Though many factors can cause the formation of cataracts, growing old is the most prevalent cause.As people age, the lens protein can change, making them clump together, causing some areas of the eye to appear cloudy. This is a cataract and with the passage of time, it may grow larger and cloud more areas of the lens make it difficult to see clearly. Though researchers attribute factors related to genes, nutrition, and environment, as to the reason why growing old results in these changes, the cause and manner are still unknown.
Cataracts can be passed through genes and they are sometimes found in infants and children. An injured eye or the use of some drugs for instance steroids, may result into a cataract. Cataracts, especially in younger people, may also develop as a result of medical issues like diabetes. Cataracts may occur due to previous surgery on an eye and other eye illnesses.
Factors that increase cataract probability
According to research, the following factors can make one more vulnerable to cataracts:
- Having somebody/ some people in a family who had/ have cataracts
- Long use of steroid drugs
- Factors related people’s ways of living like smoking and poor eating habits.
- Persistent overexposure to sunlight.
As mentioned earlier, the clouding of the lens in the eye is a slow process. Hence, symptoms of cataract may develop gradually and it is usually noticed when they start to block light. Typically, people with cataract complain about difficulty with:
-reading, especially in dim light;
-recognizing faces (or facial expressions); and
-driving at night.
Common symptoms noticed during advanced stages that may be noticed are:
-Blurred or cloudy vision
-Fading or yellowing colors
-Poor night vision
-Double vision in the affected eye, but this is rare
-trouble with eyeglasses or contact lenses not working properly
Stages of Cataract Maturation
As the cataract advances symptoms will worsen. Understanding where your cataract symptoms fall in the stages of cataract progression is helpful in planning appropriate treatments.
Your physician will check your eye and study your past medical records to test for cataracts. Your physician can carry out a few tests, such as:
- Visual acuity test – It requires you to read an eye chart by one eye to test your ability to read a sequence of letters properly.Your eye specialist uses a chart or a tool for viewing, with gradually smaller letters to test your visual health
- Slit-lamp examination - This involves checking your eye using light and magnification.The microscope is referred to as a slit lamp because it utilizes an extreme beam of light on your cornea, iris, lens, and the area separating your iris and cornea to identify any defects.
- Your eye specialist puts enlarging drops into your eye to widely open your pupils. It then becomes easy to inspect your retina.
- Your health and treatment history
- Health of you and your nuclear family
- Any prescribed or over-the-counter drugs that you are using
- Inquiry about personal experiences with hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and exposure to the sun
- History of vision
- Your current vision health.If you wear glasses or contacts thenmake sure to carry it with you for your appointment.
- Eye infections such as loss of muscles or increased pressure within the eyeballs that may have affected either you or your family members.
- Past treatments, surgeries, or injuries in your eye
- The last eye check-up date
- Your eye specialist can inspect your lens to check for cataract signs by using an ophthalmoscope.
- Dilated eye checkups should be done at least once every two years in people who are over 40 years old. Individuals over the age of 35 with a glaucoma history, and African Americans should have a dilated eye check-up annually.
Can it be treated?
Cataract will never go away on its own. When symptoms are noticed during the early stages the following may be suggested by your doctor; use of new glasses, stronger bifocals, magnification, appropriate lighting or other visual aids.
In more advanced cases, cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision.It is usually done on an outpatient basis. In this surgery, the doctor will remove the affected lens and replace it with a man-made one. More than 95% of people who have undergone cataract surgery say they can see better afterwards. People with untreated, advanced cataracts in both eyes can lose their sight.
How to protect your vision
People over 60 years of age are vulnerable to many vision problems. Although cataract prevention is unknown, this group of people should have dilated eye checkups biannually. The checkup helps in detecting signs of muscular loss related to aging, glaucoma, cataracts, and other vision defects.Good eyesight is important in reducing accidental injuries from falls and motor vehicle accidents.
It is immensely crucial for every individual to get in constant touch with a medical expert so that they can get proper and timely eye-checkups.