Everything You Need to Know About Cataracts
What are cataracts?
A cataract is defined as the clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which is located behind the iris and the pupil. Cataracts are a natural eye condition and are the most common cause of vision loss in people aged over 40. In fact, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. Thankfully, they can be easily treated with corrective lenses or cataract surgery.
Types of cataracts include:
1) Subcapsular cataracts: Occur at the back of the lens
2) Nuclear cataracts: Form deep in the center of the lens
3) Cortical cataracts: Begin to form on the periphery of the lens and work their way to cloud the center
Cataracts start out small and at first have little effect on your eyesight. However, if they go untreated they can obstruct your eye’s vision all together.
Vision affected by a cataract will at first appear hazy and a little blurred. A cataract may also cause light from the sun or lamps seem brighter and more distracting than normal. In addition, colors may not seem as bright as they did before.
Your exact symptoms will depend on what type of cataract you have. In fact, when a nuclear cataract begins to develop, it can actually cause a temporary increase in your near vision known as “second sight”. In time, this improved vision will disappear as the cataract worsens. As for a subcapsular cataract, you may not experience symptoms until the condition is far along.
If you think you are experiencing cataract symptoms, be sure to visit a licensed eye care specialist for a professional diagnosis.
What causes cataracts?
The natural lens inside our eyes is made up of water and protein. The compound is perfectly balanced so that light can be absorbed and retracted just right, and so that the retina can transmit a crystal clear message to the brain. But as we age, some of the protein may begin to clump together and cloud a small area of the lens. This will affect the light that is absorbed by the retina and blur the image that is transmitted to the brain. Protein clumping in the eyes is a natural aging process but certain factors may increase your chances of developing cataracts. These include:
- UV radiation
- Previous eye injury or inflammation
- Previous eye surgery
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- High myopia
Certain studies have concluded that cataracts may be linked to oxidative changes in the eye’s lenses. A recommended way to counter these changes is to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, particularly leafy greens. Other studies have found that foods high in fiber, vitamin E, vitamin C and omega-3 fatty acids may also reduce your risk for cataracts.
If you have been diagnosed with cataracts by a licensed professional, the easiest and quickest option for improving your vision will be getting a new pair of glasses, strong bifocals, using magnification or by simply adjusting your surrounding lighting accordingly.
However, if your conditions progress and begin to affect your daily life, you may need to consider cataract surgery to alleviate your vision problems.
Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring lost vision. It's a simple and relatively painless procedure and nine out of ten people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision after the procedure and achieve somewhere between 20/20 and 20/40 vision. If you have cataracts in both eyes that require surgery, you will need to have the surgery performed twice – at separate times for each eye. Usually the time interval between surgeries is four to eight weeks.
There are two common types of cataract surgery:
1) Phacoemulsification (Phaco) surgery where a small incision is made on the cornea and a tiny probe is placed into the eye. The device emits ultrasound waves that break up the clouded lens so that it can be removed by suction. This is the most common method of cataract removal surgery today.
2) Extracapsular surgery involves making a long incision on the side of the cornea and removing the clouded core of the lens all at once. The rest of the lens is removed by suction.
After the clouded lenses have been moved, they are replaced with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL). New IOLs are being constantly researched and developed to make the surgery less complicated for surgeons and to create better, more efficient lenses for patients.