More than 60 million individuals around the world have cataract. Cataract is the #1 cause of blindness but fortunately, cataract is highly treatable with cataract surgery.
What is Cataract?
Over time the eye’s lens, which is transparent in a healthy eye, starts to become cloudy or opaque. As individuals age, protein levels in the eye begin to decrease which is why there is no way to effectively prevent cataract from developing. Other factors can cause cataract such as head injury and certain diseases, but their appearance is primarily due to age.
There are 3 different types of cataracts and each type affects a different part of the eye. At the center of the lens is the nucleus and the most common of the cataracts affects this region. Cortical cataract and subcapsular cataract are more common in individuals who have diabetes.
Symptoms of Cataract
Vision that is cloudy or blurred is the most obvious symptom of a cataract. Nearsightedness can increase and images that were once clear can appear distorted when cataract is present. Less noticeable symptoms include the need for more and brighter light when reading, sensitivity to light, trouble seeing at night, double vision and colors that fade or seem ‘yellow’. These symptoms develop because the cloudiness on the lens prevents it from refracting light properly.
Who is at risk?
Everyone is at risk of developing cataract and the likelihood that this type of eye problem will develop increases with each passing year. Simply stated, anyone fortunate to reach old age will likely develop cataract.
Risks increase if there is a family history of cataract. Steroids and some medications can also increase the chances of developing cataract as can eye injury or previous eye surgery. Those with diabetes also have an increased risk.
A routine eye examination is the most effective way of detecting the presence or development of cataract. Because blurred vision can be caused by a number of factors, proper diagnosis is important.
It used to be that a person with cataract in one or both eyes would have to endure painful surgery to remedy the situation. But today, cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure that involves replacing the cloudy lens with an intraocular lens (IOL). The success rate of cataract surgery is extremely high. And surgery is the only option.
Cataract surgery is not recommended until the loss of vision becomes troublesome and impacts quality of life. Cataract generally develops gradually so in many cases, vision in the early stages can be corrected with prescription eyeglasses. An ophthalmologist can determine the stage at which cataract surgery is necessary.
It’s important to note that some people with cataract also have other types of eye problems. For them, cataract surgery may not restore vision. Again, an ophthalmologist can help with this determination.
When cataract surgery is performed, an amazing 95% of the surgeries involve no complications whatsoever. Local anesthesia, tiny instruments and a microscope are generally all that is needed to perform successful cataract surgery.