Millions of people develop cataracts every year, with the greater number of the lot constituting the aged and the ageing. A clouding in the lens of the eyes, a cataract is a progressive but painless eye condition. The lens serves several important functions. It works in pretty much the same way as the lens of the camera, focusing light to record an image, adjusting the eye’s focus, and helping one see clearly. Over time, proteins (a major component of the lens) group together, clouding a portion of the area. When that clump of proteins covers a larger area, seeing becomes a problem.
While cataracts appear to be age-related, like the graying of hair, it does not mean that you will have to wait till you are in your golden years to start worrying about them. For some, cataracts can start earlier. In fact, cataracts can be secondary to a chronic disease like diabetes, can be due to trauma such as when you have an eye injury, or they can be caused by exposure to radiation. And in all these cases, you don’t have to be sixty and beyond. Therefore, being mindful of this eye condition, whether you are prone to it or not, is always sensible. It can help you prevent cataract, delay its progression, or reduce its impact on your vision and quality of life.
The Symptoms: What To Watch Out For
As the lens becomes clouded with clumps of protein, you are likely to experience:
• Blurred vision.
• Poor night vision.
• Colors appear dull or faded.
• Intolerance to bright lights.
• The need to change prescription glasses or contact lenses frequently.
When you experience these symptoms, get an appointment with an eye doctor. If your doctor suspects cataracts, he or she will have you undergo a visual acuity test first to determine how clearly you see things, near or far. Your doctor may also perform a dilated eye examination to see if there are indeed damages in your retina or optic nerve. This procedure involves the application of eye drops on the eye to dilate the pupils. A tonometry, which serves to measure eye pressure, may also confirm if you have cataracts or not.
Your doctor may try to put you on anti-glare glasses, but if that does not help, or if your vision gets worse to the point that you become unable to perform your day-to-day activities normally, going for the surgical cataract removal may be considered.
There are two types of procedures that can effectively remove cataracts, Phacoemulsification and extracapsular surgery.
In Phacoemulsification, the surgeon makes a small incision on one side of the cornea and then inserts a device that releases ultrasound waves for the purpose of reducing the lens into pieces, small enough to be removed by suctioning.
Extracapsular surgery on the other hand requires a bigger incision, also on the side of the cornea, to remove just the cloudy part of the lens while the rest of the lens is suctioned out. In both procedures, an intraocular lens replaces the natural lens, and you should be able to see a lot better then.