By the age of 80, over half of the population either has a cataract or has had a cataract and they represent the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Despite the widespread occurrence of cataracts, their definition, cause, and treatment are still not commonly known. Due to the high likelihood that either you or someone you know will be effected by cataracts at some point in your lifetime, educating yourself on cataracts can help prepare you for their care and prevention.
Cataracts are formed when there is a buildup of protein in the lens of the eye, which creates a cloudy area. The lens is a transparent structure at the front of the eye that focuses light onto the retina, creating the nerve signals that are arranged into images by our brains. If there is an obstruction on the lens, the final image perceived by our brain can be distorted or incomplete. Cataracts can eventually lead to a loss of vision, but early signs include blurry vision, glare, poor night vision, double vision, and dullness of light. They do not cause pain, but they can make performing normal tasks more difficult.
Most cataracts are age-related, commonly developing in people over the age of 60. However, there are other instances that can even produce cataracts in younger individuals. Cataracts can sometimes develop as a complication to another medical issue such as diabetes or glaucoma or due to the use of drugs such as steroids. Traumatic eye injuries can also create cataracts, sometimes even years after the initial injury. There is similarly the potential for babies to be born with cataracts or for children to develop them at a young age, although these can be less serious and do not necessarily require surgery. Certain types of radiation have the potential to produce cataracts as well.
Treatment and Prevention
The early signs of cataract development can be alleviated through stronger prescription lenses, but if the clouds begin to interfere with daily activities then usually more serious treatment should be sought out. At the discretion of an eye care specialist, cataract surgery may be performed to remove the clouded lens and replace it with an artificial one.
Although cataract surgery carries the risk of most normal surgical complications such as infection, it is actually one of the safest and most commonly performed medical procedures. About 90% of cataract surgery patients report having better vision afterwards. To prevent the development of cataracts, it is important to keep a highly nutritional diet and to protect your eyes from sun exposure and cigarette smoke.
Have any more questions about cataracts? Let us know!