Cataracts Treatment and Prevention

Cataracts are the No. 1 cause of blindness here but, fortunately, the condition can be easily treated and the blindness reversed. Here are some symptoms of cataracts:

  • a worsening of your vision which may make you feel like your vision is cloudy, fuzzy or filmy
  • spots in your vision
  • glare and halos from lights or the sun - this may be severe, and you may also have difficulty driving at night
  • double vision
  • difficulty in telling the difference between colours, especially shades of blue
  • frequent changes in glasses prescription as eyesight deteriorates
  • second sight - your close-up vision and reading may improve temporarily as the lens changes shape

When a cataract is small, you may not notice any change in your vision. Cataracts tend to grow slowly, so vision worsens gradually. To detect a cataract, an eye care professional has to examine the lens. A comprehensive eye health examination usually includes the following:

  • Visual acuity test
    This eye chart test measures how well you see at various distances.
  • Pupil dilation
    The pupil is widened with eye-drops to allow your eye care professional to see more of the lens and retina and look for other eye health problems.
  • Tonometry
    This is a eye health test to measure fluid pressure inside the eye. Increased pressure may be a sign of glaucoma.

Your eye care professional may also do other eye health tests to learn more about the structure and health of your eye.

Defintion

A cataract is a painless clouding of the lens of the eye. Cataracts generally develop over a long period of time, gradually worsening the eyesight. They can eventually lead to blindness.

What cause cataracts?

Several factors may lead to the formation of cataracts.

They include:

  • Age
  • Most cataracts are related to ageing. This is the most common cause and it is part of the natural ageing process, although not everyone will develop cataracts.
  • Congenital factors
  • Some babies are born with cataracts or develop them in childhood, often in both eyes. These cataracts may not affect vision. If they do, cataracts treatment to remove them may be needed.
  • Health problems
  • Cataracts are more likely to develop in people who have certain health problems, such as diabetes. Cataracts are sometimes also linked to steroid use.
  • Eye injury
  • Cataracts can develop soon after an eye injury, or several years later.

Cataracts Treatment

In the early stages of cataracts, some common cataracts treatment include improving vision using eyeglasses, magnifying lenses, or stronger lighting. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective cataracts treatment. Cataracts treatment surgery involves the removal of the cloudy lens and replacing it with a substitute lens.

A cataract needs to be removed only when vision loss interferes with everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV. An eye care professional would be able to advise if a removal is necessary based on the seriousness of the cataract.

Cataracts can be removed in two ways, depending on the advice of the eye professional :

  • Small Incision Cataract Surgery or Phacoemulsification
    A small slit is made on the side of the cornea, which is the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. A tiny probe is then inserted into the eye. This device gives out ultrasound waves that soften and break up the cloudy centre of the lens so it can be removed by suction. This method is one of the most commonly used surgeries.
  • Extracapsular surgery
    A slightly longer incision is made on the side of the cornea to remove the hard centre of the lens. The remainder of the lens is then removed by suction. In most cataract surgeries, the removed lens is replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL). An IOL is a clear, artificial lens and becomes a permanent part of your eye. With an IOL, your vision will improve because light will be able to pass through it to the retina. People who may have problems during surgery or who have other eye diseases cannot have an IOL. They may be given soft contact lens or glasses to provide powerful magnification instead.

What is an after-cataract?

Sometimes part of the natural lens that is not removed during cataracts treatment surgery becomes cloudy and may blur your vision. This is called an after-cataract. An after-cataract can develop several months or several years later. Unlike a cataract, a cataract treatment for after-cataract requires a laser. Using a technique called YAG laser capsulotomy, a laser beam is used to make a tiny hole in the lens to let light pass through. This is a painless outpatient procedure.

Cataracts Prevention

Have a diet rich in soy, spinach, eggs, asparagus, garlic, and onions. Carrots, cantaloupe, yams, corn, and collard and mustard greens are other foods that will help you keep your lenses clear.

You can wear sun glasses that block out UVA and UVB rays to help reduce your chances of getting cataracts as a result of damage from ultraviolet light in sunlight.

There is no sure way to prevent the formation of cataracts due to aging. However, since people aged 60 and above are at risk for many vision problems, regular eye health examinations through dilated pupils conducted at least once every two years should help to detect early signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and other vision disorders.