What Are Cataracts?

Cataracts are the clouding of the normally clear lens within the eye. Those with cataracts experience this as someone would see when looking through a fogged-up or frosty window. This cloudy vision can make it more challenging to see facial expressions, driveparticularly at night, or read. Most of the time cataracts develop fairly slowly, not disturbing eyesight in the early stages. Over time, however, they begin to interfere with everyday vision.

What Causes Cataracts?

As you examine an object, light from it will pass through your cornea before going through the lens and hitting your retina at the rear of the eye. Your eye’s lens is similar to that of a camera as it focuses the light entering the eye, so it hits the macula, which is the area of the retina packed most densely with the cells responsible for vision.Nerve messages pass between rods and cones (the cells in the retina responsible for seeing) and travel down the nerve fibers within the optic nerve, so they can reach the brain. There they are interpreted, letting us see.In order to see sharply and clearly, the eye’s lens must be transparent, much like that of a camera.

Cataracts form on the lens, which is immediately behind the iris (the eye’s colored portion). The cataract will scatter light when it goes through the lens, thus creating blurred vision by preventing defined images from making it to the retina.

As you get older, your lenses will become thicker, less transparent and less flexible. Additionally, the tissue will break down, clumping together and thereby clouding smaller portions of the lens. The cataract continues development, so the clouding gets denser and covers more of the lens. Although they usually develop in both eyes, cataracts may occur in only one, and the degree of cloudiness usually varies.

What Are the Risk Factors of Cataracts?

Everyone has a risk of developing cataracts as they age, as this is the largest risk factor.

In addition to age, the following factors may also lead to an increased risk:

  • A family history of cataracts
  • Diabetes
  • Statins
  • Ionizing radiation exposure. The cosmic radiation that airline pilots are exposed to increases their risk.
  • Using corticosteroids in the long-term. Many asthmatics and those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease use these.
  • Exposure to long-term bright sunlight
  • Previous eye injury
  • Previous eye inflammation
  • Lead exposure, particularly over a person’s lifetime.
  • Aging of crystallins. This protein loses function when the eye begins to age. As they do so, peptides formed with between 10 and 15 amino acids begin to form, accelerating the formation of cataracts.

What Are the Types and Symptoms of Cataracts?

1. Types of Cataracts

  • Age-related cataracts happen when one gets old.
  • Congenital cataracts. Babies may be born with cataracts due to poor development, injury or infection. Sometimes the catarats develop during childhood.
  • Secondary cataracts. These are due to other medical conditions, including diabetes and exposure to radiation, UV light, certain drugs, or toxic substances.
  • Traumatic cataracts occur when one is injured.

2. Symptoms of Cataracts

In the beginning, cataracts may only affect a small portion of the lens, leaving you unaware of their development. Eventually they will grow and spread, leading to more noticeable symptoms. These symptoms include:

  • Dim, blurred, or clouded vision
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Sensitivity to glare and light
  • Seeing “halos”
  • Frequent changes in lens/glasses prescription
  • Yellowing or fading of colors
  • Double vision in one eye

What Are the Treatments of Cataracts?

There are no lasers, eye drops, or medications to treat cataracts. You can only do so via surgery, and it is a common operation with 300,000 performed annually within the UK. In the operation, the surgeon removes your cloudy lens, switching it for an artificial plastic one and this usually takes 10 to 20 minutes.

To learn about the procedure involved in cataract surgery, watch the following video:

What Can Be Done to Prevent Cataracts?

1. Don't Smoke

Your doctor can help you quit smoking and there are some strategies they may recommend based on your condition.

2. Limit Alcohol

Consuming alcohol in excess may increase your risk of developing cataracts.

3. Protect Eyes with Sunglasses

When you go outside, opt for sunglasses which block UVB (ultraviolet B) rays. These rays might be a factor in cataract development.

4. Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables

By adding a range of fruits and vegetables to your diet, you will be able to ensure yourself get enough vitamins and nutrients, helping maintain your health. Additionally, fruits and vegetables contain many antioxidants and these substances help maintain your eye health.

5. Take Eye Exams Regularly

Eye examinations are an excellent way to detect the development of cataracts before they begin to get serious. The exams can additionally help detect other eye problems, so be sure to talk to your doctor about how frequently you should have one done.

6. Pay Attention to Other Diseases

If you have any other medical condition, particularly those that increase the risk of developing cataracts, for example, diabetes, be sure to take care of yourself by following the treatment plan your doctor outlines.