A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye, which results to a reduction of vision. While it develops gradually, it can affect one or both eyes.
In anatomy, the lens is behind the iris, the colored part of the eye. The lens is responsible for focusing light that passes into the eye, yielding clear and sharp images on the retina, the light-sensitive membrane on the back inside wall of the eyeball that functions like a camera film. The lenses become thicker, less flexible, and less transparent, as a person ages. As a result, the tissues in the lens break down and clump together, clouding small areas within the lens. As the cataract progresses, the clouding becomes heavier, involving larger part of the lens.
Most cataracts are associated with age and cases are very common in older people. In fact, more than 50 percent of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery by age 80, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI).
According to Mayo Clinic, the common signs and symptoms of cataracts include clouded, dim, or blurred vision, seeing “halos” around lights, progressive difficulty with vision at night, fading or yellowing of colors, sensitivity to light and glare, doubling of vision in a single eye, and frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription.
Cataracts can be detect through a comprehensive eye examination, according to NEI. These tests include the visual acuity test, dilated eye exam, and tonometry.
Visual acuity test is performed using an eye chart, such as a Snellen chart, which measures how well one can see at various distances. The dilated eye exam, on the other hand, involves placement of drops in the eyes to widen or dilate the pupils. The eye care professional makes use of a special magnifying lens to check the eye’s retina, as well as the optic nerve, for possible indications of eye damage or other eye problems. It is noted that the close-up vision of both eyes may remain blurry for several hours following the test. Meanwhile, tonometry involves measurement of the eye pressure, which can be determined with either an instrument or numbing drops that are applied to the eyes. While the aforementioned tests may be enough to spot cataracts, the eye care professional may also perform other tests to further assess the structures and heath of one’s eyes.
The Cleveland Clinic’s Richard Gans told abc7 that signs of cataracts may develop early in people who are exposed to sunlight, those who take certain medications, and those who suffer from certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. He added that smoking also plays a role in the development of an eye cataract. For these reasons, Gans suggested that there are things that can be done to prevent or delay the progress of cataracts. According to him, wearing sunglasses and a hat with a large brim blocks ultraviolet light from the son. He added that research also showed that eating green leafy vegetables and other anti-oxidant foods also help decrease the likelihood of having cataracts.
Cataracts also become a prime issue when they begin to interfere with the person’s activities of daily living; In that case, cataracts may be removed surgically. According to Mayo Clinic, the surgery involves the removal of the clouded lens, replacing them with clear artificial lens, called intraocular lens. The new lens is placed in the same place as the natural lens, becoming a permanent part of the eye.
According to Gans, surgery for cataracts was very, very successful and very safe, but there were new technologies that were available to people now that offered greater opportunities for restored vision with cataract surgery. He also explained that along with cataract, other eye disorders, such as astigmatism, can be corrected using computer guided lasers. The physician added that surgery can be as fast as ten minutes, with the recovery process taking as short as one a day or two.
Overall, if one noticed any sudden vision changes like double or blurred vision, medical consult should be done.