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Cataract is one of the most common eye problem faced principally by the aged people. In common language, cataract means clouding of eye’s natural lens (lens provides clear vision by adjusting according to eye’s focus). The person suffering from cataract may have difficulty in clear vision due to the blurred images caused by defect in lens or due to the presence of protein clumps.

A cataract may arise in the front, back or centre of the lens, which lets in the inability to read, see far away things and causes a glare that complicates clear vision. Cataract is the cause of 19 million people’s blindness throughout the world. It is predicted that the number of cataract surgery might double from 3.3 million in 2001 to around 7.6 million in 2010. The number of cataract patients above 50 years was 7.7 million in 2001, and was estimated that the number would rise to 8.5 million by 2010 in India.

Causes of Cataract

  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Intraocular inflammation
  • Hereditary enzyme fault (Galactosemic cataract is a hereditary disease where the body cannot metabolize galactose, which results in toxic accumulations of galactose in the body)
  • Advanced age leading to formation of protein clumps
  • Steroids
  • Eye injury
  • Incorrect eye glasses

Types of Cataract

The different type of cataract is as follows.

  • Nuclear Cataracts: Is the most common type, affecting the central part of the lens. As a result, the distant image vision is abnormal
  • Sub-capsular Cataracts: Progresses most quickly. Back side of the lens is affected. Occurs due to diabetes or steroid usage.
  • Cortical Cataracts: Common in diabetics. Outer edge of the lens begins to get affected first and spreads out to the central parts

Symptoms of Cataract

  • Painless and progressive blurred vision
  • Presence of dark spots moving along the vision
  • Multiple visions or double visions
  • Cloudiness in the vision
  • Frequent changes of prescription for eye glasses
  • Shape change in the lens
  • Halo around the visible lights

Complication associated with development of Cataract

Cataract if not treated in time can lead to complications including

  • Impaired vision
  • Blindness
  • Glaucoma –in rare cases

Diagnosis of Cataract

A thorough medical examination of the eye is done by an ophthalmologist. The radius of curvature with respect to the cornea is measured by conducting a special test (Keratometry). The length of the eye is measured in order to assess the refractive power of the probable implantation of intraocular lens by an A-Scan test. The pressure of the aqueous humor is determined to check the possibility of glaucoma by a process known as Tonometry.

Treatment of cataract

The problem with cataract is that it cannot be made to disappear with the help of eye drops or glasses or any exercises. Surgery is the only answer to cataract formation in order to retain the normal vision. In some cases, after the patient is operated, the capsule in the intraocular lens gets cloudy, following which a laser surgery is conducted to open the capsule and preserve the normal vision.

Types of Cataract surgery

  • Phacoemulsification: This is known as “small incision” cataract surgery that uses ultrasound waves to break-off and remove the lens.
  • Extracapsular surgery: This is a long incision surgery for cataract.

Complications associated with Cataract removal surgery

  • Tearing of lens capsule
  • Retinal detachment
  • Cystoid macular edema
  • Bleeding inside the eyes sometimes
  • Leak from the incision
  • Infection of endophthalmitis
  • Glaucoma

Prevention of Cataract

    • Eye protection from UV rays using dark glasses
    • Avoid smoking
    • Quit alcohol
    • Evade air pollution
    • Consume foods with vitamin E and Lutein.
    • Early examination of the eyes by an ophthalmologist at starting stages of blurred vision

Precise time for cataract surgery
It is not true that the cataract has to come to the advanced stage in order to be removed. If the problem exists in both eyes, two weeks gap is followed. If there is diabetic retinopathy in the eyes, due to age factor, the cataract will be removed in spite of the patient having a normal vision.

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