Research conducted by Prevent Blindness America (PBA) shows that cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in elderly people above 40 years; accounting for more annual cases than diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and glaucoma combined.
What is a cataract?
The lens constitutes of water and strategically arranged protein strands to facilitate clarity and enable it project light and images to the retina. However, the protein strands may clamp together because of aging, smoking or other medical or traumatic causes; causing a cataract.
This causes a blur in the light and images projected to the retina, in turn causing blurry vision. Causes and types of cataractsAlbeit age is the major cause of cataracts in most people, there are several other causes related to medical conditions and unhealthy living habits.
Consequently, there are several types of cataracts depending on the causes. These include:
• Nuclear cataractThis is the most common type of cataract. It forms in the nucleus of the lens and it is usually induced by aging.
• Sub-capsular cataractsSub-capsular cataracts are mostly caused by diabetes but it may be induced by prolonged usage of steroids. The cataract tends to form at the back of the lens.
• Congenital cataractThese tend to form in babies during birth or while they are still young. They often do not affect vision, as they are very small.
• Traumatic cataractTraumatic cataracts occur because of damage caused to the lens during surgery. Cataracts tend to affect vision in two ways depending on the type and causes.
For starters, patients may notice blurring in their vision because of clamping of the protein strands. In other cases, the lens may turn yellowish or brownish in color, making vision darker as time goes by. Symptoms of cataracts
There are several distinct symptoms of cataracts, which include:
• Poor night vision that gets worse gradually.
• Clouded vision.
• Pain resulting from moderate sunlight or light from bulbs.
• Double vision in one or both eyes. These symptoms tend to grow worse gradually and may be a sign of cataracts or other eye related problems.
You can take one of three tests to determine whether you are suffering from cataracts depending on your preference:
• Visual acuity An eye chart is used to determine how well you see from various distances.
• TonometryThis is more complex as it involves measuring the pressure in the eyes. It is nonetheless safe and painless as the eye may be temporarily numbed.
• Dilated eye testIn this test, the pupils are caused to widen through eye drops and the lens examined closely by a professional.
Treatment for cataractsThe advancement of cataracts can be significantly curbed through several measures if the signs are confirmed early. Depending on the type of cataract, the doctor may prescribe magnifying lenses for blurry vision, anti-glare sunglasses or brighter lighting for people experiencing shading in the vision.
However, in cases where the cataract is advanced, the most effective and recommended remedy is eye surgery. This involves replacing the damaged lens with an artificial lens. Surgery may result in discomfort around the eye and sensitivity to light and tough, but the effects should wear off within a period of three days. The vision on the other hand gradually improves within a period of one to three months depending factors like lighting and the type of surgery.
ConclusionThe effects of cataracts are often insignificant in their early stages and they tend to grow gradually with advancement in age. Fortunately, cataracts can be easily prevented, and even treated, restoring your vision to normal for brighter days.