Our eyes contain a clear crystalline lens behind the pupil. This lens helps us focus at objects located at different distances from the eye. Due to various reasons, this lens becomes cloudy which blurs vision. This condition is called cataract. If left untreated cataract causes progressive decrease in vision leading to blindness. Cataract is the most common cause of reversible blindness in the world. Surgical correction of cataract can reverse the vision loss caused by it.
Causes of Cataract
- The most common reason for development of cataract is old age. Age related changes affect the lens in the eye leading to cloudiness.
- Many systemic illnesses can lead to development of cataracts, for e.g. diabetes and certain metabolic diseases.
- Injury to the eye can cause cataract
- Inflammatory conditions of the eye which may present with repeated redness and pain can eventually lead to formation of cataract
- Medications such as steroids on prolonged use can cause cataract.
- Congenital and developmental cataracts: Cataract may be present at birth or may develop during childhood. Interference with development of lens during foetal life or early childhood can lead to opacities in the lens.
- Blurred, cloudy, and decreased vision is the most common symptom of cataract.
- Details such as expressions on the face of a person sitting in front may be unclear and blurred.
- Greater difficulty with vision at night especially while reading or driving
- One may experience glare with bright light or headlights of vehicles
- Seeing colourful rings around a light source.
- Colours seem faded and yellowish
- Double vision
- Frequent change in the power of spectacle lenses
Types of cataract
- Nuclear cataracts: The central region of the lens becomes opaque. This is most commonly seen in old age. In very early stages of development it may cause nearsightedness, that is, it may improve near vision temporarily in some people. The near vision is eventually lost as the cataract progresses. The cloudiness turns yellow and brownish with time which makes it difficult for the sufferer to distinguish shades of colours.
- Cortical cataracts: It occurs as cloudy, white, and wedge-shaped streaks over the outer edge of the eye lens. The streaks slowly expand and reach center over time which causes a disturbance in the passage of light through the center of the lens.
- Posterior subcapsular cataract: This is the type of cataract in which an opaque layer is formed right in the path of light near the back of the lens. It causes early and profound visual loss.
Treatment of cataract
Surgical removal of the cataract is the only treatment available at present.
During cataract surgery, the clouded cataract lens is removed and an intraocular lens is placed in the same place. It becomes a permanent part of your eye and remains in that position life long. The surgery is performed under anaesthesia in the form of eye drops or injection . It is usually carried out as a Day-Care surgery wherein you will be sent home on the day of surgery itself. In modern day surgery an incision of less than 3mm is made and the cataract lens is broken down and sucked out of the eye using a small probe. The intraocular lens is folded and inserted through the incision which then unfolds inside the eye. Advanced techniques used in cataract surgeries shorten the time required for healing.
In case of childhood cataracts affecting vision, surgical treatment at the earliest is recommended to prevent permanent visual impairment.
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