A cataract is a condition characterized by the clouding of the lens of the eyes. The lens is the clear part of the eye that is responsible for focusing light on the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue situated at the back of the eye. Most cases of cataracts are age-related, and that is why they are common among older people.
Due to the said clouding of the lens, the vision can be impaired. Experts say that cataracts develop at a very slow phase. The condition may affect only one eye or both, and it’s not something that can spread from one eye to the other. The use of stronger lighting or eyeglasses may help the sufferer to see well. However, a cataract surgery may be warranted if the condition already considerably impairs the vision.
The transparent lens of the eye is made up of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a manner that permits the lens to remain clear, thus allowing light to pass through it so that it may be focused on the retina.
However, the said arrangement of the protein tends to be disrupted as the person ages, causing a small part of the lens to end up cloudy. This is medically referred to as a cataract. Eventually, a cataract may become bigger and bigger until it leaves the person having a hard time to see.
Aside from the natural process of aging, medical experts also believe that there are a few other probable causes of cataracts. Some of them include smoking and diabetes, both of which can impede the proper circulation of blood in the eye area. It is also said that prolonged exposure to sunlight may also cause cataracts to develop.
Signs and Symptoms
The most evident sign of a cataract is the cloudy appearance of the lens of the eyes. Initially when this white cloudy portion is small, the sufferer may not really note any changes in vision. As the cloud grows in size, the ability to see is eventually affected. The person may start complaining of having blurry vision as well as seeing double images.
It’s not unlikely for the person with cataracts to note that colors tend to be faded. At night, it can be very difficult to see due to the fact that there’s insufficient light, and cataracts keep much of the available light from entering the lens of the eye. Since the vision gets more and more impaired as the condition worsens, the individual may undergo frequent alterations in prescription glasses or contact lenses in order to help him or her see better.
The detection of cataracts may be done through different eye examinations conducted by an ophthalmologist, a doctor specializing in the medical care and treatment of the eyes. A visual acuity test may be conducted in order to determine how well the individual sees objects at varying distances.
A dilated eye exam may be conducted wherein special eye drops are administered to dilate the pupils, allowing the specialist to examine the retina and optic nerves to rule out any other medical problem that could be causing the reported symptoms.
Another common test that may be conducted during the check up is the so-called slit-lamp examination. In this diagnostic procedure, a special microscope emitting an intense line of light is utilized by the doctor in order to have the various structural parts of the eye examined.
Initially, the use of prescription glasses or contact lenses may help improve the vision if the symptoms brought about by cataracts are mild. However, the only available treatment that can put an end to the condition is an eye surgery.
This procedure involves the surgical removal of the affected lens of the eye. It is then replaced with something artificial that is designed to function as the lens. Surgery is the treatment of choice if the cataract has already considerably affected the vision. However, there are also instances wherein the surgical removal of cataracts may be warranted, such as in cases wherein the clouded lenses are keeping an eye specialist from examining the eyes to determine other problems.