Cataracts and Visual impairment can have a massive impact on our lives. Initial stages may be ignored but advanced cases can be outright dangerous.
It is in our best interest to get our eyes diagnosed right away. This will allow us to identify the exact issue and act on it before it’s too late. Cataracts are a great example.
This eye condition creeps up slowly with people barely noticing until they experience severe symptoms such as fuzzy vision, light sensitivity, inflammation, and headaches.
Early stages may be corrected with proper diet and prescription glasses. Later stages may require surgical intervention.
Cataract surgery is a medical procedure that is commonly prescribed to patients with severely damaged lenses.
The process has a high success rate with complications tending to be mild and self-correcting. As long as a competent surgeon performs the operation, there should be no worries about the outcome.
Read on to learn more about the causes of cataract, the risk factors, the different types, the symptoms to watch out for, the testing process, and the side effects. You can also get more information by calling The Sight Clinic and scheduling a consultation.
Causes of Cataract
While there have been many studies on this condition, a consensus on the causes and risk factors remain elusive. Some of the research point to the possibility that cataract occurs as a natural consequence of wear and tear.
The issue gets worse over time so seniors are more prone than the young. Others have hinted at the heightened risk posed by various types of radiation such as ultraviolet light.
Those who are frequently out in the sun for work or outdoor activities are more likely to develop this problem. If this is indeed the cause for an individual, then exposure must be limited to prevent it from getting worse. Genetics may be a factor so check your family history.
Experts have also mentioned common habits like cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption as risk factors. While they may not be the direct cause, they can increase a person’s susceptibility to the disease.
It is within every individual’s power to reduce this. Other factors are unfortunately harder to control such as pollution. There are also studies which suggest a link between cataract and excessive salt intake. People are advised to lower their consumption and improve their diet. Severe dehydration can also have the same effect so ample water must be consumed on a regular basis.
There are markers that can predict the development of cataract including diabetes and extreme weight. Obese individuals are more likely to suffer from it compared to those in the normal weight range.
This said, being severely underweight is not good at all either. There are also certain eye surgeries that may affect the eye lens and eventually trigger a cataract so weigh the risk before going under the knife.
It has been found that women are more likely to develop this condition than men. The long-term use of various drugs may increase the probability as well, including tranquilisers, diuretics, and steroids.
Types of Cataract
Cases differ in their underlying cause, method of development, and discernible symptoms. Let’s look at each of the main types:
Cataracts usually take on this form among diabetics. The problem starts in the lens cortex until it reaches the centre. The name comes from the location of the initial development. Patients may notice streaks at the outer edges of their lens cortex.
These will look like whitish opacities that are out of place. They will gradually make their way from the fringes to the centre where they will begin to affect vision.
The light rays will have a harder time passing through the lens.
Vision will become blurred and patients commonly experience glare.
This type generally affects those who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa, severe farsightedness, and diabetes. There are also indications that it can be caused by the use of steroidal medications. It starts at the back part of the lens and makes its way to the front and centre over time. Those who have this condition will find that their vision is reduced when confronted by bright light. They will have to avoid direct sunlight and wear glasses to protect their eyes. They may also have difficulty reading even in ideal conditions. At night, light sources can cause them to see glare or halos.
Most cases of cataract are of this type. It starts in the centre of the lens and is usually associated with advancing age. The effect on vision changes over time as the lens adjusts its focus. Near-sightedness is common during the onset with some people reporting enhanced vision.
However, this will soon take a turn for the worse as the lens turns yellow or brown. Visual acuity will suffer with patients having a hard time making out objects in low light conditions. This condition makes it dangerous to drive at night.
Some people may also have a distorted sense of colours during the advanced stages.
While most forms of cataract occur as a slow build-up, it is also possible for individuals to suffer from it due to blunt trauma. Accidents, injuries, and environmental factors can all contribute towards its development. It can be a secondary condition that emerges after the eyes get injured for whatever reason.
There are even cases wherein babies are born with the condition. Sometimes it develops early during childhood. Congenital cataract is fairly rare.
There is still debate as to what causes this. Some experts point to German measles during the pregnancy while others blame metabolic disorders.
It could be a case of genetics with protein anomalies affecting the eyes.
Symptoms of Cataract
This condition is rarely detected in its earliest stages because onset is quite gradual and unremarkable. It will only be noticeable once the problem gets bad enough that the vision is impaired.
Even then, it is still possible for the patient to have a good quality of life.
They can read book, drive cars, use computers, and do visually demanding tasks for a long time after the initial onset.
It is not considered dangerous unless the case is severe and the whole lens becomes white. In this advanced stage, people can start to feel pain, experience inflammation, and complain of headaches.
For most, however, the symptoms are rather mild. These include a reduction in visual acuity with people seeing the world as if they were in a fog. Things look fuzzy and difficult to identify. Some report seeing random spots. As a result, their daily activities may be affected. Their poor eyesight could make tasks harder than usual in different degrees.
Their routine may require changes to cope in some cases. For example, they may have to refrain from driving at night because they won’t be able to see well in the dark.
The risk of getting into an accident is too high.
They will not be able to look at light sources, natural or artificial, without seeing halos or being overwhelmed with glare. The sensitivity to light is increased. It is just like how low quality cameras capture night shots.
Even their perception of colour will be affected. Things will not appear as vibrant or as bright as before. The world will be a bit dull and washed out.
Visual media previously enjoyed may no longer be as satisfying. Another symptom is sudden near-sightedness that turns into poor vision as the condition worsens.
Some people report seeing two images at the same time or double vision.
As you can see, the symptoms range from minor annoyances to outright dangerous problems depending on the situation. A lot of people don’t mind most of these and continue with their lives unperturbed for many years.
However, there usually comes a time when they can no longer ignore the problem. Their regular routines are too drastically affected for them to remain complacent.
This is the point where they go to their doctor to seek advice on how to deal with the cataract. For advanced cases, the optician may recommend cataract surgery to deal with the issue once and for all.
Cataract surgery cost varies depending on the clinic.
Testing for Cataract
Note that some of the symptoms for this eye condition is similar to those experienced by patients with other optical issues. Fuzzy vision cannot be immediately attributed to cataract. It could also be glaucoma or a similar disease.
In order to be certain, people who suspect that there is something wrong should seek the help of a doctor. Testing will have to be performed for confirmation.
The exam will be composed of many parts including pupil dilation, visual acuity, eye pressure test. The doctor will also review medical history since some of the possible causes include chronic ailments like diabetes.
If in case the presence of cataract is confirmed, then the next step would be to determine the location and extent of the problem. The doctor will have to identify the type of cataract at hand. Other forms of eye injury and metabolic disorders may also be unearthed.
Sometimes it is necessary to use advanced imaging techniques when a conclusive diagnosis is not possible with other methods.
If found early enough, the problem may be fixed through simple non-invasive solutions such as contact lenses and eye glasses.
Doctors will also ask their patients to ensure adequate lighting when reading or doing other visual tasks.
Since surgery is an invasive procedure that has many risks, it is usually thought of as the last card which doctors will only take in the worst case scenario.
They will try to exhaust all other remedies depending on the situation. For example, they might advise their patients to wear sunglasses and avoid excessive sun exposure since some studies link this to cataract development.
This is especially pertinent for workers who are out in the field all day and athletes who train outside a great deal. They might also suggest dietary improvements such as the addition of food items that are rich in Vitamins A, C, and E.
If these mild interventions prove to be inadequate, then the surgery will be floated as a viable option.
Failure to act in a timely manner might eventually lead to permanent blindness. Although there are some risks, it may be the only way to save the eye and make it fully functional again.
Surgery is also recommended in the case of other eye conditions such as retinopathy and wet macular degeneration, if Avastin injection does not improve the situation. The process will entail the removal of the damaged lens and the insertion of a new lens implant.
In the hands of a capable surgeon, the patient will not have to worry as it can be completed fairly quickly and the cuts should heal with time.
The cost of cataract surgery is not as high as people might think. It has become a common practice with thousands performed every year with excellent results.
It is generally viewed as being a safe and effective treatment for this condition. The surgeon will provide options on how the faulty lens will be removed. The artificial lens can be left there permanently. It will not be felt or seen by the patient so there should be no worries about long-term irritation. This new lens can be designed to correct vision so that there will no longer be a need to wear prescription glasses after the operation.
Risks and Side Effects of Cataract Surgery
Just like any other type of invasive procedure, the incisions will require time to heal and can cause discomfort in the first few days or weeks. These should naturally go away as the wounds heal and the body adapts to the new condition.
Expect to feel a bit of an itch right after the operation. Vision will initially be shaky but this should improve once the eyes get adjusted to the artificial lens. Aches and bruising are also normal. Allow the eyes to bounce back patiently.
They will be better than ever before. Follow the doctor’s advice to hasten the process and avoid complications.
It is possible for the cornea to swell after the surgery. If this happens, vision can become blurred temporarily for over a month. This condition often goes away by itself within 3 months without any outside intervention.
Patients who are concerned about it and wish to accelerate their recovery may ask their doctor to prescribe anti-inflammatory medicine. This could be in the form of drops that directly go to the eyes or tablets which can be taken orally.
The intraocular pressure may also increase because of the inflammation which could result in some pain. This should also go away as the inflammation subsides.
The surgeon will discuss all of the risks involved with the operation at the very beginning. Patients have the right to learn the possible consequences of the procedure, both good and bad. Expectations will be set regarding the capabilities and limitations of the implant.
It is at this point where questions should be posed without any hesitation. People should not agree to anything with getting satisfying answers for their questions.
Personal research about the process may also be undertaken. Friends and family who have undergone the same surgery may be contacted for feedback.
On the whole, it is a common procedure that has helped countless individuals improve their vision and quality of life.