CATARACT is a congenital or degenerative eye disease leading to a clouding of the lens. It is one of the causes of blindness. A cataract is the formation of spots or clouded areas of the normally clear lens of the eye, making it difficult to penetrate the light rays to the retina, which causes distorted o burred vision, glare, or difficulty seeing in poor lighting conditions and consequently leads to impaired vision. The higher haze on the lens of the eye, the greater the visual acuity occurs in a patient. Cataract affects around 20 million people of all ages throughout the world.
Many factors may be responsible for the formation of cataracts, including diabetes, but the main cause of cataracts is considered to be the aging process – at least 99% of the people suffering from cataracts (the remaining 1% is born with congenital cataract, sometimes due to metabolic disorders or intrauterine infections).
Many people with cataracts, which are age-related or acquired, develop the defect very slowly and painlessly throughout the years. The patient’s ophthalmologist often discovers a cataract during routine testing, but it is not possible to treat it until the cataract seriously interferes with daily activities.
Some of the causes of congenital cataract may be an eye disease, for example: retinoblastoma, retinopathy, lack of the iris or uveitis. Low birth weight of the child and the consumption of certain drugs during pregnancy are also factors that cause blindness in children. About 1/3 of patients with diagnosed cataract is hereditary.
Onset and treatment
Symptoms usually develop for many years. Gradually a big portion of the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. In mild cases of cataract a patient may initially not notice any symptoms. The first symptom of the disease is usually blurred vision. Some patients start to wipe their glasses more often, thinking that the cause of this condition is dirty glasses. There is also a glare when looking at bright light sources, caused by splitting of light rays on clouded lenses. Some of the symptoms may also include small spots or points in the field of view – places where your eyes are not quite sharp. The effect of cataract may sometimes be less perceived intensity and clarity of color and difficulties encountered when reading or watching TV, less frequently – observed halo vision (light circles) around bright light sources (eg. Car headlights) and double vision (two images instead of one). A signal of the beginning of the cataract may also be the need for frequent changes of glasses or problems with selecting a suitable correction. In extreme cases, when the lens becomes completely cloudy, there is a significant impairment of vision – the patient may see only the outlines of large objects. Cataract does not cause pain, itching, or redness of the eye. The most common symptoms are:
• unclear vision, up to a total loss of sight
• misjudging distance
• visual acuity
• strabismus or nystagmus (in children)
• impaired mobility (in the elderly)
Cataracts can be single or double sided. Unilateral cataract is easy to overlook.
Patients should keep in mind that surgery is not necessary if your vision is not significantly affected and you don’t have any difficulties carrying out everyday tasks. However, if the patient does need a surgery, they should remember that before a Cataract surgery, the patient needs an initial eye examination to make sure that their eyes are suitable for surgery. Your doctor will take a complete history about your medical and eye health and perform a thorough examination of both eyes.
The surgery is a relatively straightforward procedure that takes up to 30 to 45 minutes and can be carried out under local anesthetic, which means that the patient is fully conscious throughout the whole procedure. The doctor performs microscopic incisions and divides the cloudy lens into smaller pieces so they can be easily removed from the eye. The treatment is designed to remove the defected lens, and leave the “package”. When the lens has been removed, the doctor will then insert small plastic lens in its place. If you have cataracts in both eyes, two separate procedures will be carried out a few weeks apart. After this kind of surgery, you will not need to be hospitalized and you can return home shortly after. Most people will enjoy improved vision a day or two after the procedure and can return to their normal daily routines including reading and driving.