Eyes are the mirrors to the world, and life can be quite blank and difficult to imagine without them. Thus, disorders of the eye may be comparatively few in number, but they deserve our full attention. Cataract is one such common disorder, whereby the lens of the eye is clouded, thus making it difficult to see things clearly. Cataract is such a common disorder, especially in the older population, and it is estimated that more than half of Americans over 65 suffer from this condition.
Causes and types of cataract
When proteins accumulate in the lens of the eye, making them appear cloudy, a cataract starts forming. The build-up of protein obstructs the passage of light through the eye lens, resulting in blurred vision. When new cells in the lens of the eye are formed on the outside of the lens, they push the older cells into the center, forming a compact protein deposit in the center, which in turn is termed a cataract.
There are a few types of cataracts depending on the causative agents, such as
- Age-related cataract caused by growing old.
- Traumatic cataracts caused due to an injury to the lens and the eye in general.
- Congenital cataract, which is when babies are born with the condition because of an injury, infection, or poor development before birth. This cataract can develop during childhood too.
- Secondary cataracts are found as a consequence of another primary medical condition, such as exposure to drugs, toxic chemicals, radiation, or ultraviolet light. It is also caused by diabetes.
Lifestyle habits such as heavy drinking, smoking, and exposure to air pollution can also lead to cataracts.
Symptoms of cataract
A cataract progresses slowly and there are no significant symptoms but rather gradual stages of vision loss. These include blurry, cloudy, filmy or foggy vision, inability to view colors distinctly, facing problems while driving at night due to glare from the headlights of vehicles, suffering daytime glare problems, and encountering double vision. Other symptoms include changes in the prescription of glasses; sometimes the elderly witness improvement in nearsightedness such that they can read without the help of glasses, however distant vision keeps getting worse. Such a symptomatic condition is called second sight.
Cataracts are diagnosed with an eye examination to test vision, as well as an examination of parts of the eye including the lens.
Treatment and prevention
If the condition is minor, it is curable by wearing the correct glasses or contact lenses prescribed by a doctor. However, if vision is still not clear post glasses, then cataract surgery is required. The surgery involves removing the lens of the eye, to be replaced with an artificial one. With close to 1.5 million cataract surgeries performed per year in the United States, it is categorized as the most frequently performed surgery and has a success ratio of greater than 90%.
Since the reason protein gets deposited on the lens is unclear, there is no prevention for cataract. However, since it is common among the elderly, regular eye examinations, especially after 50 years of age, are recommended. Also, those suffering from diabetes or having a history of eye problems must be cautious.
Cataract is a commonly occurring condition in America, especially in the older population; it cannot be prevented but it can easily be treated.