Cataract has been declared as the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40. This eye disorder is also included as one of the main causes of blindness throughout the world, especially in developing countries, in addition to glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. This eye disorder commonly occurs around the age of 40 and develop gradually afterwards. People suffering from cataract experience conclusive symptoms, which can be elaborated in an examination to find out the severity, the potential causes, and the most suitable cataract treatments for the problem.
What is cataract?
Cataract is an eye disorder which affects the natural lens of the eye. People with cataracts often experience cloudy or opaque area developing in the lens of the eye. As a result, the lens that should actually be clear becomes frosty. This frosty eye lens may get worse eventually, causing the severe difficulty of seeing. In people with diabetes, this eye disorder may develop into worse stage quite quickly, so that the resulted effect can be as severe as those caused by a diabetic retinopathy.
How cataract forms
Our lens consist mostly of water and protein, and this protein keeps the lens from being frosty and thus, we can always see objects clearly. With things triggering cataracts, including the natural process of ageing, these protein start to clump together, causing cloudy layer or spot to the eye lens. Initially, this cloudy spot of the eye may not be that disturbing, but eventually it may develop into something that really inhibits you to see clearly. Long untreated cataracts may end up in blindness, like seen in various cases.
Cataract development is not commonly fast. Instead, in many cases, it is a gradual process. There are three different common patterns with which cataract forms in the lens:
- Cataract which forms deep in the central part of the lens as a result of ageing. This is known as a nuclear cataract.
- Cataract that occurs at the back of the lens, which can possibly occur as a result of excessive steroid medication oral consumption and diabetes. This condition is coined as subcapsular cataract.
- Cataract that occurs in the outer part of the lens initially and spreads into the center of the lens, resembling a fashionable soft lens. This type of cataract is known as cortical cataract.
Who are susceptible to cataracts?
Cataracts are often assumed as an age-related eye disorder. As a result, there has long been an assumption that this eye disorder is more common to occur in people in their late adulthood or after forties. In fact, there is also a certain type of cataract that makes not only people in their forties or fifties who are susceptible, but also children and even infants. Thus, it is important to know the types of cataracts and their possible main causes to know who are susceptible of the occurrence.
As its term suggests, an age-related cataract is commonly suffered by those in mid 40s or 50s. In its initial occurrence, however, an age-related cataract does not necessarily lead to major vision disturbance, as it generically starts with thin clouding of the eye lens, which does not directly make the victims unable to see. This major vision problems are usually going to occur when the victims reach their senior age of 60s or above.
Although cataracts are believed to affect senior citizens, in fact, children can also be affected. Some cataracts are actually brought from birth, making it possible for it to develop during the childhood. Some infants are susceptible for this type of cataract, which affects them from birth. Congenital cataracts often affect both eyes and are usually small in size, so that they do not affect visions.
In addition to those two types of groups susceptible to cataracts, there are some other people that may be prone to development of cataracts during a certain phase of their life. These additional groups of people include:
People who take certain medications
Medications such as corticosteroids or diuretics may trigger the occurrence of cloudy layer on the eye lens, making it hard to see clearly. Prolonged exposure to these medications simultaneously increase the risk of developing cataracts.
People with diabetes
People with diabetes may have trouble performing proper body function, which in the eye may lead to the occurrence of cataracts.
People undergoing eye surgery
Eye surgical procedures may affect the cornea and lens forms. Thus, these surgeries also increase the risk of developing post-surgery cataracts.
People with trauma to eyes
Forceful blow, blood clots, and blood vessel bursts around the eye area also increases someone’s susceptibility to cataract.
In addition to these, people who are exposed to excessive air pollution, smoke, and heavy drinking habits are also in a greater risk of having their lens affected by cataracts.
How are cataracts diagnosed?
Commonly, people with this cloudy-eye disorders realize slight changes in their ability to see objects. They will start to notice persistent cloudy layer that affects the clarity of objects being perceived. Gradually, this cloudy layer of the eye lens will affect vision clarity. In diagnosing cataracts, an ophthalmologist is going to perform an eye test to see how well you can see. Afterwards, a series of pupil test and other eye-related observation may also be performed in order to see how severe or mild the occurring cataracts have affected your eye lens and visions. To sum up, cataracts are detected through comprehensive eye exam that includes visual acuity test, dilated eye exam, and eye pressure exam. Through these thorough examination, the ophthalmologist will determine the necessity of performing an immediate eye surgery to remove the cataracts.
When should a cataract be treated?
Commonly, cataracts need to be removed when they cause significant interfere your sight-related everyday activities, such as writing, working with computer, reading, driving, or simply as watching TV. Your eye surgeon will come up with this decision after observing the severity of the cataract and its effects to the eye with a series of exams. There are two main conditions as to how cataract removal procedure is decided.
- If you are suffering from a delayed cataract, you are not likely to be interfered by vision-related disturbance for some period of time after it occurs. This way, surgeries can be delayed and the sufferer does not have to rush to cataract-removal surgery.
- If you are suffering from cataract and other eye complications, such as diabetes, you are likely to experience much faster degraded visions. To correct this, immediate surgery, after considering your entire health status, is advised.
Common symptoms of cataracts
Cataracts commonly develop slowly and trigger some main symptoms before causing major vision disturbance in the affected eye.
- Visions that are not completely clear. You may experience foggy, filmy, or cloudy visions.
- In older people, there is progressive nearsightedness called second sight, while in some others double visions that are persistent often occur.
- Drastic sudden changes in glasses prescription. This is caused by nearsightedness or farsightedness that may occur with the presence of cataracts.
- Problems with glare during the day and considerable sensitivity to light. This glare can also be a significant problem while driving at night, as there will be much of it from the headlights.
- Changes in the way you perceive colors.
How dangerous cataract can be?
Cataracts cause damages to the eye lens. Although the development of this eye disorder is commonly slow, it is very important to get it checked regularly and thoroughly. Ignoring mild symptoms of cataract may lead into some other problems related to your sight and entire health. People age 50 to 65 are the most common sufferers of cataracts, which in some cases, are not diagnosed quite initially. Due to the presence of blurry, cloudy visions with cataracts, this illness may interfere your normal daily chores and activities. Senior citizens suffering from cataracts may find it difficult to see things clearly, which may end up in some accidents, such as falling or running into unseen objects. In addition, undiagnosed and untreated cataracts has been the leading cause of visual impairment of more than half 80-age Americans. Improperly treated cataracts also lead to eye lens damages that trigger some other health complications.
Treatments for cataracts
Similar to some other eye disorders, the most common treatments for cataracts include glasses and contact lenses. These instruments may be able to provide better visions and thus, can be employed as an initial treatment for the symptoms of cataracts. However, there are some cases wherein cataracts are diagnosed later in stage, making it is impossible for glasses and contact lenses to provide sufficient treatments for the patient. If this is what is going through, the patient will be suggested a cataract surgery, a surgical procedure to remove formed cataracts from the eye lens to make sure there will be no cataracts formed nearly in the future. This procedure is usually performed when cataract has become one of those factors that inhibit you from doing your sight-related daily activities properly.
How is cataract surgery done?
The main purpose of cataract surgery is removing your natural eye lens, which has been damaged by the disorder, and replace it with the artificial one. This surgery will remove and treat the clouding which affects the lens of your eyes, which in fact, should be clear.
Is cataract surgery safe?
Cataract surgeries have been widely performed since the last 15th century, and are considered as a safe procedure in correcting eye disorder. This is not an obligatory procedure for occurring cataract, as long as the problem source does not cause any disturbances to your major daily activities. Doctors will consider this option if they have problems examining the back of your eyes, or if you are suffering from other medical complications, such as diabetes. If you are not experiencing major vision changes after the occurrence of cataracts in your eye lens, cataract surgery may not be required to be done initially. You can always decide when to have this surgery, if you are not undergoing difficulties caused by blurry or cloudy visions from the cataract. However, if the problem affects your vision while driving and doing other daily chores, surgery should be considered immediately.
Risks of cataract surgery
Complications during cataract surgeries are not common. Most of the times, these complications can be treated successfully. The risks of cataract surgery include:
- Secondary cataract
- Loss of vision
The risks may be greater if you are suffering from another eye disease or any other serious medical conditions affecting your parts of the body. With this condition, cataract surgery may possibly fail to improve visions due to the underlying eye damage from other conditions.
How much is cataract surgery?
Some variables are counted and thus, included into cataract surgery pricing calculation. Those variables include the type of intraocular lens, types of preoperative testing, the length of postoperative care, and geographical area where the surgery is performed. Therefore, the cost of these surgeries may vary according to these variables.
Rough calculated cost for the average cataract surgeries in the US is around $3,450 per eye, while if you are expecting an advanced technology lens with correct astigmatism or presbyopia, you might be charged an additional $450 to $900 per eye. Some insurances cover these surgeries, so it is advised to ask for detailed information to your health care provider before undergoing the surgery.
What to prepare before the surgery?
To prepare for your cataract surgery, you may be asked to do some of the followings:
Undergo preoperative tests
This preoperative tests will be used to determine the correct size of lens implant or the intraocular lens. The doctor will perform a painless ultrasound test a week or some days before the scheduled surgery in order to measure the size and shape of your eye.
Stop any medications you are taking temporarily
This is important, since some medications may trigger bleeding, which is not an expected thing with an eye surgery. Although not common, the risk of bleeding may still be found with cataract surgeries, so that blood-thinning medications need to be stopped temporarily a week before the procedure is performed.
Use prescribed eye drops to prevent infection
The doctor will usually give you antibiotic eye drops to be used before the surgery to prevent potential infection.
Fast before surgery if directed
It is common that you will be instructed not to eat and drinks twelve hours before the procedures performed.
Prepare for recovery
You might need to arrange for a ride home, considering you will not be able to drive after the surgery, although you are likely to send home right away after the injury.
What problems may develop after surgery?
There are several problems that may possibly develop after the surgery, although this is quite uncommon. The risks of cataract surgery include infection, bleeding, inflammation that includes pain, redness, and swelling, vision loss, double vision, or high or low eye pressure. In some cases, eye tissues enclose the IOL, making it cloudy and thus, blur your vision. This is a condition coined as an after-cataract, which usually develop months or years after the surgery.
An occurring after cataract can be treated with laser. A tiny hole is made with the laser to let the light pass through, so that the blurry vision can be removed.
How will my vision back to normal again?
Blurry or double visions you experienced before the surgery is not going to go away right away after the performed surgery. The healing eye requires time to adjust with the implant eye lens and with the focus of the other eye before you can see clearly without any disturbing fogging or cloudy effect. To reach complete recovery and healing of the operated eye lens, you might need some months. When the eye has fully healed, you will be able to wear either glasses or contacts to improve your visions.
Can cataract be prevented?
Cataract is often assumed as an age-related disease and thus, cannot be avoided. In fact, there are some things you are able to perform, not to prevent the occurrence of cataract, but to minimize the risk of having this eye lens problem. At any age, you will be able to decrease the risk to be exposed to cataract by doing some things, such as:
Give up smoking
You might have understand the dangers of cigarette to your entire health. This, in fact, includes the eye health. In fact, research suggests that smoking may increase your risk of developing cataracts. In addition to smoking, drinking too much alcohol may also lead to the occurrence of cataracts.
Eat nutritious foods
Those with diabetes are more prone to cataract development, research stated. Hence, it is very important to maintain your proper blood sugar level. One of the most effective ways to do this is by maintaining your diet. Eat foods high in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins to boost your entire health and keep away from cataracts.
Protect the eyes from direct sun
Ultraviolet rays are really bad for your skin and eyes. Thus, to prevent cataract development, it is important to give your eyes a protection from this unhealthy rays. UV rays may speed up the formation of existing cataracts and trigger the development of cataracts in the future, so that it is really important to wear eye shades to prevent this eye disorder from occurring at all.
Get your eye checked
Your eye needs to be checked annually, in order to see any abnormal changes to the retina, pupil, or lenses. This eye checkup is also important since it is also able to measure your glasses prescription if you are wearing some. One of the most common symptom of developed cataract is a drastic change of glasses prescription. This is why regular examination should always be performed.
Get yourself sufficient healthy sunlight
Although ultraviolet can do damages to your body parts, beneficial sunlight keeps your body healthy by providing natural antioxidants. It is beneficial for you to get yourself exposed to morning sunlight before 10 am for about 10 to 15 minutes to get natural antioxidants.
Cut off carbohydrate
You might have heard about the role of carbohydrate in aggravating diabetes. In fact, foods high in carbohydrate also increase the risk of developing cataracts. Thus, it is important to measure your daily intake of carbohydrate to avoid excessive blood sugar boost that may affect your vision and eye health. On the contrary, food sources rich in omega 3, such as salmon and tuna are beneficial for improving your eye health, so that the development of cataract can be decreased. You can also take this omega 3 as food supplements after discussing it with the doctor.