Cataracts: Causes And Treatments By Annette J Dunlea
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye. A cataract is when the natural lens of the eye which focuses light on the retina, looses its clarity and begins to interfere with the vision. There are various degrees of cataract which can cause symptoms, ranging from mild glare and difficulties in following a golf ball on the fairway to significant loss of vision leading to inability to drive or walk safely. For people who have cataracts, seeing through cloudy lenses is a bit like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car, especially at night or see the expression on a friend’s face. Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t disturb your eyesight early on. But with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision. At first, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help you deal with cataracts. But if impaired vision interferes with your usual activities, you might need cataract surgery. Fortunately, cataract surgery is generally a safe, effective procedure.An eye exam will be given to test how well you can see remember to bring your glasses or wear your contacts to the appointment.If you suspect you have a cataract visit your optician. He will arrange an appointement with a surgeon through the eye clinic. Don’t waste time waiting lists are 12 -18 months to see the surgeon in the eye clinic. You have the optician to go privately and pay around €1,400 per eye, this has a shorter waiting lists of weeks. Check your private health insurance they are often fully covered. On your visit to the surgeon please tell him of all your illnesses and bring a list of your medicines with you. Your doctor will also dilate your pupil in order to examine the condition of the lens and other parts of the eye.
The eye functions much like a camera. Light rays enter the eye, passing through the cornea, the aqueous, humor transparent fluid in the front of the eye and then the pupil and into the lens. The lens bends the light rays to focus objects onto the retina lining the back of the eye. From there, the image passes through the retinal cells, into the optic nerve, and finally to the back of the brain which process the images.Cataracts occur when there is a buildup of protein in the lens that makes it cloudy. This prevents light from passing clearly through the lens, causing some loss of vision. Since new lens cells form on the outside of the lens, all the older cells are compacted into the center of the lens resulting in the cataract. With age-related cataracts this type of cataract develops as a result of aging. Babies are sometimes born with cataracts as a result of an infection, injury, or poor development before they were born, or they may develop during childhood. There are also secondary cataracts. These develop as a result of other medical conditions, like diabetes, or exposure to toxic substances, certain drugs such as corticosteroids or diuretics, ultraviolet light, or radiation. Another type are traumatic cataracts and these form after injury to the eye.Other factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing cataracts include cigarette smoke, air pollution, and heavy alcohol consumption.
Cataracts usually form slowly and cause few symptoms until they noticeably block light. When symptoms are present, they can include:vision that is cloudy, blurry, foggy, or filmy.Progressive nearsightedness in older people often called “second sight” because they may no longer need reading glasses. People suffer changes in the way you see color because the discolored lens acts as a filter. They have problems driving at night such as glare from oncoming headlights. Problems with glare during the day and double vision, like a superimposed image and sudden changes in glasses prescription.
No one knows for sure why the eye’s lens changes as we age, forming cataracts. But researchers worldwide have identified factors that may cause cataracts or are associated with cataract development. Besides advancing age, cataract risk factors include:ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources diabetes, hypertension, obesity, smoking, prolonged use of corticosteroid medications,statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol,previous eye injury or inflammation,previous eye surgery,hormone replacement therapy, significant alcohol consumption,high myopia or family history.One theory of cataract formation that’s gaining favor is that many cataracts are caused by oxidative changes in the human lens. This is supported by nutrition studies that show fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants may help prevent certain types of cataracts.
Though there is significant controversy about whether cataracts can be prevented, a number of studies suggest certain nutrients and nutritional supplements may reduce your risk of cataracts.Good food sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds and spinach. Good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include spinach, kale and other green, leafy vegetables.Other studies have shown antioxidant vitamins such as vitamin C and foods containing omega 3 fatty acids may reduce cataract risk. Strong correlations showed up between cataract risk and diet type.The risk was greatest for high meat eaters (who ate more than 3.5 ounces of meat each day), and it decreased from one group to the next, in this order: moderate meat eaters, low meat eaters, fish eaters – people who eat fish but no other meat, vegetarians and vegans. In fact, the risk for vegans was roughly 40 percent lower than for the high meat eaters.
When symptoms begin to appear, you may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses, strong bifocals, magnification, appropriate lighting or other visual aids.Think about surgery when your cataracts have progressed enough to seriously impair your vision and affect your daily life. Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision.Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision.During surgery, the surgeon will remove your clouded lens and in most cases replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL).New IOLs are being developed all the time to make the surgery less complicated for surgeons and the lenses more helpful to patients.Presbyopia correcting IOLs potentially help you see at all distances, not just one. Another new type of IOL blocks both ultraviolet and blue light rays, which research indicates may damage the retina.
Prior to cataract surgery, your optometrist or opthmalmologist will perform a comprehensive eye exam to check the overall health of your eyes, evaluate whether there are reasons why you should not have surgery and identify any risk factors you might have.Refraction also will be performed to accurately determine the amount of nearsightness, farsightness and /or astigmatism you have prior to surgery. Additional measurements of your eyes will be taken to determine the curvature of your cornea and the length of your eye.These measurements are essential to help your cataract surgeon select the proper power of the intraocular lens and give you the best vision possible after surgery.Today you have many types of IOLs to choose from for your cataract surgery, depending on your specific needs.The surgeon then completes the cataract removal and IOL implantation procedure by closing the incision in your eye – a stitch may or may not be needed, and a protective shield is placed over the eye to keep it safe in the early stages of your cataract surgery recovery.
It is an uncomplicated cataract surgery typically lasts only about 15 minutes. However,expect to be at the surgical center for the day because extra time is needed for preparation and for a brief post-operative evaluation and instructions about your cataract surgery recovery before you leave.You must have someone drive you home after cataract surgery; do not attempt to drive until you have visited your eye doctor the day after surgery and he or she tests your vision and confirms that you are safe to drive.You will be prescribed medicated eye drops to use several times each day for a few weeks after cataract surgery. You also must wear your protective eye shield while sleeping or napping, for about a week after surgery. To protect your eyes from sunlight and other bright light as your eye recovers, you will be given a special pair of post-operative sunglasses.While your eye heals, you might experience some eye redness and blurred vision during the first few days or even weeks following the procedure. After the surgery eye drops are used for approximately 4 weeks and as no sutures (stiches) are used, the vision usually improved within days of surgery. Most people will choose to have clear distance vision after surgery but still require glasses for reading.
During at least the first week of your recovery, it is essential that you avoid:strenuous activity and heavy lifting ,nothing over 25 pounds. Bending, exercising and similar activities that might stress your eye while it is healing. Water that might splash into your eye and cause infection. Keep your eye closed while showering or bathing. Also, avoid swimming or hot tubs for at least two weeks. Any activity that would expose your healing eye to dust, grime or other infection-causing contaminants.Your cataract surgeon may give you other instructions and recommendations for your cataract surgery recovery, depending on your specific needs and the outcome of your procedure. If you have any questions at any time after cataract surgery, call your eye doctor for advice.If you need cataract surgery in both eyes, your surgeon typically will prefer that you wait a few weeks between procedures, so your first eye has healed sufficiently and you have good vision in that eye before the second surgery is performed.
Sometimes you will be offered follow up appointments in they eye clinin to monitor your eye health post surgery and to ensure the best visual outcome. The operation is not painful. However you will feel some discomfort during your surgery and your eyes may be slightly gritty and watery for a few hours after the procedure.While the results vary from patient to patient, most people have good vision the day after surgery and it then improves, giving you the best vision within one month.People use glasses for many reasons and while cataract surgery can correct your refractive error, it cannot prevent your eyes from aging. It is therefore likely you will need glasses for some things e.g. : reading or driving at night. Depending on your job, you need to take anything from 2 to 7 days off work. You should avoid dusty and windy environments for a few weeks after the treatment.While cataract surgery has an excellent track record of safety, all medical procedures have risks. Some of these, like sore eyes or glare are usually short lived and resolve, however, others, like an infection, are potentially serious and may result in long term reduced vision. Fortunately, such complications are very rare.