What is Cataract?
The term cataract refers to a clouding of the eye’s lens that is located behind the iris and pupil. This particular lens operates by focusing light on to the retina, much in the same way as a camera lens. The lens affected by cataracts is also involved in the eye’s focus.
This lens consists of protein and water. This protein is precisely arranged for optimum functioning. However, during the natural aging process, these proteins can become clumped together and cause the eye’s lens to cloud. This cloud is what is known as a cataract and will most likely get larger as time progresses, if left untreated. Initially, you may not notice you have cataracts. But over time, as the disease progresses, your vision may become cloudy, blurry and hazy.
What are the types of cataract?
There are three different types of cataracts you should know about:
This type of cataract is formed in the cortex (periphery) of the lens. Over time, a cortical cataract will extend from the outside of the lens to the center. This type of cataract is common to diabetes sufferers.
Nuclear cataracts are the most common type of cataracts. Forming in the center of the lens, this type of cataract is caused by the normal aging process. When this cataract first forms, you may even experience improved vision. However, this effect will not last long.
This kind of cataract starts at the back (posterior surface) of the lens. If you take steroids, have diabetes, or suffer from farsightedness, you may be susceptible to subcapsular cataracts.
How do I know if I have a cataract?
Cataract will not show signs until at least it has developed partially. If left untreated, this impairment can cause loss of vision. However these are the common symptoms.
- Faded colors and blurred vision.
- Poor night vision but headlights and sunlight may appear all too bright with a halo around the source.
- Temporarily double or multiple visions which gets cleared as cataract develops further.
- Frequent need to change contact lenses or spectacles
What causes cataracts to develop?
There is no proven cause of Cataracts. However Aging is considered as a primary factor for causing Cataracts. Most age related cataracts develop in either of the two ways discussed here.
Protein clumping is one of the main reasons for clouding of the lens. This occurs when lens proteins begin to denature as a result of aging. You may not be able to notice the difference when cataract is small but as it grows and spreads, eye sight gets worse and eyeglasses and stronger lighting can help cope up until surgery is an absolute necessity.
With the aging of lens, it loses its natural clarity and may add a tint of yellow or brown. As with protein induced cataract, you may not be able to notice the browning or blurring of vision initially. But with the passage of time and increase in browning, reading and routine activities get affected. The one difference in tinted cataract is, the vision sharpness will not reduce but identifying colors like blues and purples will be difficult.
Prevalence of cataract
Cataracts are one of the most commonly occurring eye diseases. According to WHO, Cataract globally rank second among the leading causes of vision impairment. In 2010, one in three blind people was blind due to Cataracts and one in six visually impaired persons was visually impaired due to Cataracts. Despite of great efforts for the reduction of prevalence, Cataracts is still a major public health issue.
How cataract is diagnosed?
Many eye diseases including Cataracts can be checked by Dilated Eye Exam. It’s a painless exam in which doctor will give you some eye drops to dilate (widen) your pupil and then he or she can check for cataract and other diseases.
How cataract is treated?
All three types of cataracts can be removed with eye surgery. Today’s surgeons implement the use of lasers and other innovative technology to remove a patient’s cataracts with a minimum risk of discomfort. Most cataract surgeries involve removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a clear plastic lens called an Intraocular Lens.
While cataract removal surgery is relatively safe, you may experience a few side effects such as swelling, bleeding or discomfort. Your eye doctor will advise you on the steps to take during recovery to aid proper healing.
Cataract surgery complications
Although the procedure is quite safe but still there can be some complications such as blurred vision, infection, bleeding and retinal detachment in few cases. (Learn more about cataract surgery complications). Untreated mature cataract can result in glaucoma caused by the leakage of protein through the lens capsule.
Nutritionists are currently studying the role diet in the prevention of cataracts. Research has shown a favorable link between antioxidants and the prevention of cataracts. Antioxidants are vitamins such as Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E that work to fight harmful free radicals in the body.
What can you do about cataract?
If you have cataracts or want to prevent them, do the following simple home remedies to take care of the situation:
Drink orange juice:
Increasing your intake of Vitamin C will reduce the risk of developing cataracts. It is recommended that you take two times the recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin C to protect against the occurrence of cataract. That means you should include 11/2 cup of strawberries, 1 cup of orange juice or 2 oranges.
Take beta-carotene and Vitamin E:
Research has shown that increasing the beta-carotene and Vitamin E intake offer some protection against cataract. Have more of orange and yellow vegetables like carrots, squash and sweet potatoes for beta-carotene and almonds, fortified cereals, peanut butter and sun flower seeds for Vitamin E.
Use sunglasses or hat:
Covering your eyes by sunglasses or hats while out in the sun has shown to reduce the incidences of cataracts. Choose sunglasses that have UV protection. There is no need to spend a lot of money on designer glasses. You can purchase sunglasses from the local shops too.
Look away from harmful radiation:
Whenever you are near a microwave, oven or x-ray, always look away. Though many manufacturers claim that their microwaves are safe, it is always better to avoid looking at them in order to protect the eyes. The same holds true for x-rays.
Control your drinking habits:
Having occasional drinks will not harm your eyes. But prolonged drinking will certainly harm your eyes. This is because alcohol interferes with the nutritional supplies to the lenses and thus leads to cataract formation. Even the alcoholics having good diets can have cataracts due to the interference of the alcohol with the nutrient supply to the eye.
Research has shown that smokers are more likely to develop cataract than non-smokers. Toxic substances from the smoke of a cigarette damage the lens nucleus and thus cause cataract. When you quit smoking, you have the risk of developing cataracts.
People who take pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen have a reduced risk of developing cataracts. This is due to the fact that these drugs, the rate at which your body uses glucose and lesser the blood sugar, lower is your risk of developing cataract. This is also one of the reasons why diabetics are more prone to cataracts.