With age, a cloudy area forms in the lens of your eye, preventing it from sending clear images to the retina. This leads to problems in vision. Known as cataract, it is one of the leading causes of blindness across the globe in people above 50 years of age.
June is Cataract Awareness Month – the right time to know more about cataract, the various forms it can take, how best to prevent it, and ways to cure it.
What is Cataract?
The eye’s natural lens rests behind the iris and the pupil, and it mainly consists of water and proteins that allow the lens to stay clean so that light can pass through to the retina. The clouding of the lens is a gradual process with age, when the proteins begin to form a cluster, and light cannot pass through the lens onto the retina.
The Three Types
Posterior Subcapsular Cataract: This type of cataract is formed at the posterior (or back surface) of the natural eye lens. It is common among people who have chronic health conditions such as diabetes. Also, if you smoke, drink alcohol or use steroids that raise blood pressure, you are likely to be affected by this cataract.
Nuclear Cataract: Nuclear cataract is formed on the nucleus, or the central portion of the lens, and it is the most common type of cataract. The lens gradually becomes yellow, and it affects one’s distant vision, generally leading to myopia.
Cortical Cataract: Cortical cataract is formed when the clouding occurs in the cortex of the eye lens that encloses the nucleus. This type of cataract starts forming on the edges of the lens and gradually expands to the centre. It primarily affects one’s depth perception. These cataracts can sometimes lead to monocular diplopia or double vision, and can also make you sensitive to light.
Cataract is usually an age-related vision problem. But there are four more types of cataracts that may affect people of all ages:
Congenital Cataract: Believe it or not, congenital cataracts are formed in newborn babies! The baby may have inherited the metabolic deficiencies from the mother, or it may have happened when certain antibiotics were given to the mother when she was pregnant. Also, if the mother had chicken pox or measles during the pregnancy, there are chances that the baby might suffer from this condition. But congenital cataracts are rare.
Traumatic Cataract: Traumatic cataract is formed after any injury that damages the eye. It may form right after an eye injury or it may take months or years to develop.
Secondary Cataract: Secondary cataracts are formed on new lens implants, when tiny particles or cells are left from the clouded lens after a cataract surgery. It is also known as posterior capsule opacity (PCO). It may take weeks or months post cataract surgery to develop a secondary cataract.
Radiation Cataract: Radiation cataracts can be formed by excessive exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Exposure to X-rays can also lead to it.
Watch out for….
Here are some symptoms you need to be wary of:
Blurry vision: Most cataracts gradually lead to it.
Improper vision at night, or in dim places: If you have cataract, you may also see halos or bright lights around any light source, say car headlights.
Sensitivity: When cataracts are fully developed, one may become highly sensitive to glare and light. This condition is called photophobia and can also recur after a cataract surgery.
Double vision or monocular diplopia: With diplopia, one sees two images of the same object from each eye. Double vision may also continue post cataract surgery.
Discoloured vision: With the gradual clouding of the natural eye lens, a few colours become faded, and generally, objects tend to have a brownish tinge. One is also unable to distinguish among colours.
Diet: Many medical practitioners argue that oxidative stress directly leads to cataracts. Now, oxidative stress results from the imbalance of antioxidants and pro-oxidants in the body. The imbalance is caused when one does not have enough of Vitamin C and E, selenium and carotenes. Eating fruits and vegetables that are rich in these vitamins significantly reduce the risk of developing cataracts.
Regular Eye Examinations: Regular visits to an ophthalmologist would reduce the risk of developing cataract. It is also important to regularly visit one’s ophthalmologist after a successful cataract surgery.
Wearing Sunglasses: Sunglasses that come with 100% UV protection are always ideal to wear outdoors to prevent cataracts. Polarised sunglasses prevent glare from reflective surfaces such as water and the road, and are great to sport outdoors. They come in various styles to suit your mood and personality.
Reducing Smoking and Alcohol: Alcohol consumption can seriously damage the optic nerve. And smokers have up to three times the risk of developing cataracts than non-smokers. So give up these bad habits – now!
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