Definition of Cataract
Perhaps what should be the first question related to cataracts is: what is a cataract? Among the most commonly known diseases of the eye is a cataract, a problem that is characterized by formation of a cloud-like layer on the lens of the eye. This layer blocks passage of light through the lens to the retina, hence causing distortion of one’s visual capability. The lens of the eye is mostly made up of proteins, and a change in the chemical composition of this part of the eye is the major cause of cataracts. The problem becomes compounded with age, as the lens becomes thicker and less lucid. Research shows that a majority of people at the age of 65 and above suffer from cataracts. The condition can be present in either one or both eyes.
Causes of Cataracts
Clouding of the lens is caused by many factors to which the cataracts become associated and among them are age-related cataracts, which become advanced with age. Congenital ones are those that babies are born with, due to infection during pregnancy, infections or even due to poor or incomplete development of the eye. They may also develop when a child is in its early childhood stages. There are also those that are considered secondary, which come about or arise from medical conditions like diabetes. They are also caused by exposure to some types of drugs, ultraviolet rays and radiation. Traumatic cataracts are caused by injury that may happen to the eye, for example when a sharp object jabs the lens. Other factors known to cause this eye defect are smoking, obesity, previous eye surgery, being highly myopic and genes or heredity factors.
Types of cataracts
They come in several types and among them are:
- Subcapsular – they are located at the back of the lens and are common in people suffering from diabetes
- Nuclear – are found in the central area of the lens and are mostly because of the aging process
- Cortical – are the most common and very easy to notice because they form a white-wedge like design starting from the edges of the lens towards the center.
Signs and Symptoms of Cataracts
This eye defect is difficult to detect initially, as it develops slowly over time and has no felt effect on vision. As they progress in formation, one will notice that colors to appear faded, the vision is blurry, one has poor night vision, multiple images appear in one eye and there are sudden frequent changes in the prescription of eyeglasses. In addition, a person who was previously myopic becomes short-sighted. Glare and sunlight become a constant problem that may cause pain to the eye. (Cataract Symptoms)
Diagnosis and Treatment
A medical eye exam is the most reliable way through which a cataract can be detected. The test can be done through visual acuity that seeks to determine how well the eye can see at varied distances. A dilated eye exam is one in which the pupils are made to dilate by use of some eye drops, then a magnifying glass is used to check the eye for damage. Tonometry is the use of a specialized eye machine that measures pressure levels of the eye and detects any problems.
Treatment depends on the extent of eye damage because of the cataract. At early stages, use of prescribed eyeglasses, anti-glare sunglasses or contact lenses may provide a temporal solution. In other cases the cataract will need to be removed through a surgical procedure, especially if it interferes with normal vision and daily activities, or it interferes with treatment or management of other eye conditions.