Cataracts

What is a Cataract?

In order to understand what a cataract is , one needs to know a little bit about the eye and how it works. The eye is almost spherical in shape and contains within it a lens which is clear and colorless like glass. The lens is slightly smaller than a lima bean and lies behind the iris. The iris is the part of the eye which makes a person blue eyed or brown eyed.

The lens of the eye is surrounded by a thin, saran-wrap like membrane called the capsule. The lens has the function of focusing light on the retina which is a light-sensitive lining inside the eye the retina is connected to the optic nerve which in turn is connected to the brain. When light falls on the retina, visual messages are transmitted to the optic nerve and finally to the brain enabling us to see

Normally, light passes through the clear cornea( the transparent dome-like structure in the front portion of the eye), through the pupil ( which is the round opening formed by the iris) and through the colorless lens with focuses it on the retina

When a colorless lens acquires color, becomes cloudy or slightly opaque, it is called a cataract. While a clear lens is able to let rays of light pass through itself, a cataract prevents light rays from passing through as they should. This causes a blurred image to fall on the retina and as a result, causes a person to have blurred vision

A cataract is not a film over. It is also not a growth or tumor. It does not spread from one eye to another like an infection. It develops independently in each eye, although both eyes are usually affected. One eye may acquire a cataract months, or even years before the other eye does.

What causes a cataract?

Most cataracts are due to increasing age. Other less common causes are injuries to the eye, inflammation within the eye, certain types of medication, x-rays, and diseases such as diabetes.

Cataracts do not occur due to poor eating habits, smoking or drinking too much, or overusing your eye. Having a cataract does not mean that the rest of your body is deteriorating and not in good shape. You can be very healthy and still have cataract. Even babies are occasionally born with cataract.

How many people have cataracts?

More than 50% of all Americans can expect to have cataracts by the time they are 65 years age.

How rapidly do cataracts develop?

Cataracts usually develop slowly over many years or even decades although some may develop more rapidly.

Is visual loss from a cataract permanent?

No. Unlike certain other diseases of the eye, for example glaucoma, the vision lost from a cataract can be restored.

What are the symptoms of a cataract?

They can vary from person to person. Blurred vision or a dimming of vision is common. You may also have difficulty reading small print and diving at night.

How is a cataract diagnosed?

A diagnosis of a cataract is made by testing your vision and by looking at the lens within your eye with a slit lamp microscope.

How is a cataract treated?

Al first, a change in eyeglasses might help. Later, as the cataracts advances, even changing glasses will not improve vision. At this point treatment is surgical.

Eye exercises, vitamins, or eye drops do not cure cataracts. A lot of research is being done to develop non-surgical methods of treatment and it is possible that in the future, we may be able to stop the progression or prevent the occurrence of cataracts.

How successful is cataract surgery?

Very successful, 95% of people have improved vision after surgery.

Can a laser be used instead of surgery to remove a cataract?

No. A laser cannot be used to remove a cataract. The laser is often confused with an instrument called a phacoemulsifier, which uses high frequency sound waves to break up the cataract during surgical removal.

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