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Cataracts explained

Monday, August 31, 2015 @ 09:08 AM
Author: Amit Mathur


Cataracts are responsible for half of blindness and a third of visual impairment in the world. They cause a clouding of the lens that blocks light from getting to the retina. One or both eyes can be affected. The likelihood of cataracts increases with age.

Cataracts are more common in the developing world than they are in western countries. They often develop slowly and go unnoticed until vision problems develop. Usually cataracts are diagnosed during an eye exam.


Since they develop slowly cataracts are hard to notice at the beginning. Proteins or pigment slowly build up on the eye. Blurred or hazy vision is often the first thing that a patient notices. Other symptoms include poor night vision, light glare, colors looking dull and halos. If you are having trouble reading or driving go see your eye doctor.


The most common cause of cataracts is aging. After turning 40 the risk of cataracts increases significantly. Conditions like diabetes, obesity and hypertension increase the risk of cataracts. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation can cause cataracts. Smoking and heavy drinking contribute to an increased likelihood of cataracts. Use of corticosteroid medications, statin medication and hormone replacement therapy is a risk factor. Previous eye trauma or eye surgery can also cause cataracts to develop. Individuals with a family history of cataracts or strong near sightedness are at a higher risk.


Prevention can be done by reducing certain risk factors and making healthy choices. Wearing sunglasses to prevent UV exposure protects the eyes. Not smoking or drinking heavily and managing diabetes, obesity and hypertension will help prevent cataracts. Regular eye exams and going to the eye doctor when you notice a problem can help to catch a problem early.

Good diet is linked to preventing and managing diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Foods that are rich in antioxidants can help prevent cataracts as they are thought to be caused in part by oxidative processes in the human body. Getting lots of vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin can reduce the risk of getting cataracts later on in life. Sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, kale and leafy greens are rich sources of vitamin E and carotenoids.


Early on cataracts can be treated with glasses. These help to improve vision and compensate for changes occurring in the eye. Surgery becomes an option once the cataract has begun to have a serious impact on everyday life and vision. Cataract surgery is simple and has strong results in improving vision.

During the surgery the clouded lens is removed and a clear plastic lens is put in instead. It is usually an outpatient procedure using local anesthetic. Patients can move around following the surgery but are encouraged to refrain from intense physical activity for a month after the procedure.

The two biggest complication risks are retinal detachment and endophthalmitis. In retinal detachment the retina moves away from its supportive tissue. Symptoms include flashes of light or floaters in the vision, shadow and vision loss. Endophthalmitis is an inflammation of the eye. Symptoms include loss of vision, pain and redness.

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