A cataract is a cloudy, painless area in the lens of the eyes. It is a result of the protein in the lens of the eye clump.
The cloudy area inhibits the lens from sending a clear signal to the retina. This hinders the process of converting light to electric signals.
As a result, this light doesn't travel to the brain via optical nerve and gets interpreted as images. In other words, it interferes with the normal vision of an individual who develops this condition.
Cataracts develop slowly and gradually. In the initial stages, the cataract is temporarily solved with brighter lighting conditions and glasses that facilitate vision correction.
Cataract surgery is recommended only when the impaired vision starts interfering with daily activities.
Aging (for most, age-related changes always do not lead to cataracts).
An injury to the eye that harms the integrity of the lens tissue.
Inheritance, genetic inclination to develop a cataract.
Congenital cataracts (being born with cataracts).
Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight or sunlamps or tanning booths.
Diseases of the eye such as glaucoma, retinal detachment, long-term uveitis, and retinitis pigmentosa.
Diabetes, where the blood sugar levels are not managed in the acceptable range.
Intake of steroid-based medicines over a long period of time.
Frequent exposure to X-ray radiation to the head, due to a radiation therapy regimen.
Rare cases where the vitreous gel of the eye has to be removed (vitrectomy) have high chances of cataract formation.
A dulled blurred or clouded vision.
One may experience glare or halos while looking at lamps or directly at the sun. Driving at night can get difficult, due to the glare of the car headlights.
Seeing things at night becomes increasingly difficult.
Colored objects appear faded or even yellowed.
While reading one may need brighter lighting.
The affected eye seems to see double of things.
Eyeglasses may need repeated changes due to change in the number of the eye.
Second sight, a temporary condition where the short sight may get better for a short period of time.
Routine eye check-ups generally give an early diagnosis of cataracts. Doctors record medical history and a description of the symptoms, if any, and perform a series of evaluations to rule out other conditions and confirm cataracts.
These tests include:
Visual acuity test:
The patient is made to read a series of letters in the order of decreasing size of these letters. This is done for one eye at a time, by covering the other eye. Here the doctor determines if the patient has a 20/20 vision or there are signs of impairment.
The slit-lamp refers to the microscope that casts an intense ray of light through a slit, thus illuminating the cornea, iris, lens, and space between the cornea and iris.
This technique allows the doctor to magnify and see the structures that are in the front of the eye. A magnified view allows thorough evaluation and recognizes anomalies in the structures.
It requires the doctor to prepare the eye for the examination. This is done by putting an eye-drop which dilates (widens) the pupil.
Dilation of the pupil facilitates a clearer view of the retina of the eye. Then using a slit-lamp or ophthalmoscope, the doctor observes the presence of signs or structures indicative of cataract.
Cataract surgeries generally do not need to be planned in haste. Except for conditions like diabetes, where cataract formation occurs speedily. However, the doctor will evaluate and advise what will be the best course of action.
The doctors usually delay the cataract surgery unless it is hampering the quality of vision. Such as, it is coming in the way of reading, driving at night, categorized as daily normal activities.
The surgery comprises removal of the clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial clear lens, called an Intraocular lens. Once replaced, it remains a permanent part of the eye.
Patients for whom the lens may not suit after removal of the clouded lens space, have avoided. Their vision is then corrected using spectacles or lenses.
Local anesthesia is used to numb the area around the eye during the procedure. The patient is awake during the procedure. There is discomfort to the operated area for a few days, but the complete healing happens in about eight weeks. In this duration, the doctor will call the patient to check up to evaluate the healing process.
If there is a simultaneous cataract formation in both eyes, the doctor operates one eye first. After the surgical wound of the operated eye recovers in roughly eight weeks, the other eye is operated on.
Cataract surgery is usually an outpatient procedure. The patient can go home the same day, with instructions for care from the operating doctor.
The surgery is safe in most cases, only in a few cases there could be a risk of bleeding and/ or infection. Therefore, going to an experienced surgeon is advised. Despite the procedure being applied extensively to correct cataracts, it does increase the risk of retinal detachment.
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