Cataracts and poor eye vision

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Eye care information on diseases and treatments


Introduction to Cataracts

Abnormalities of the lenses of the eye can be divided into two categories. These two categories are the 1) abnormalities on the surface of the lens and 2) abnormalities of the lens size and shape. Cataracts are usually characterized as being a disorder that belongs in the first category because the disorder is due to an abnormality of the clarity of the lens. Fogged or even opaque lenses can lead to damaged vision or even blindness.

Aging is the main cause of cataracts but other factors that can cause the disease include smoking, diabetes and ultraviolet light. The disorder can also be inherited so if someone in your family has them you are at greater risk than other people. Research is continually conducted to find out what causes it.

The good news is that cataracts are curable and that surgery is almost always 100% successful. Normal visual function is usually restored to most cataract sufferers once the cataracts have been surgically removed from their corneal lenses.

In most developed countries portions of the health care budget are attributed for the care of cataract sufferers. However in the developing world cataract sufferers are not as lucky. For instance in Africa not even fifty percent of the cases that occur have the privilege of having their sight restored through surgery. In North America, Northern Europe and the United Kingdom, government or private health insurance usually covers the removal of cataracts. Treatment of cataracts is becoming almost as common as dental work.

Definition of Cataracts

Cataracts can be defined as faulty eye lenses. The transparent lens surface becomes opaque and light rays cannot reach the retina for interpretation. The effect on vision can be convertible or incontrovertible. If not treated total loss of vision is the result.

There are many different causes for cataracts including trauma, drug side effects, developmental abnormalities and metabolic disorders. However mostly they are attributed to an inherited disposition to develop them as one ages.

Types of Cataracts

There are many different causes of age related cataracts and the matter is considered to be very complex. The three main types of cataracts are cortical, nuclear, and posterior subcapsular types. For the most part they are all removed surgically.

Cortical Cataracts

In the case of cortical cataracts, unwanted lens fibers grow on the cortex of the lens creating an outer coating that fogs vision. The layer usually causes opacities called cortical spokes within the cortex of the lens. The person does not experience visual problems until they affect the entire cortex and the lens becomes white with excess fibers instead of transparent.

Nuclear Cataracts

In the case of nuclear cataracts the nucleus of the lens becomes compressed and hard and the lens itself turns yellow. This type of cataract develops slowly and is associated with aging. It takes years to develop. A symptom of nuclear cataracts is the eyesight improving with old age. However eventually there is a complete loss of near vision thanks to these types of hard cataracts. ding. However, with further progression there can be a loss of vision, especially for nearer vision.

Posterior subcapsular cataracts

These are granular opacities that appear in the central posterior cortex. It is more common in younger people. The main symptom is glare when driving at night. These types of cataracts also affect the near vision more than long distance vision.

Risk Factors for Cataracts

Epidemiological studies suggest that the following factors may contribute to the development of cataracts:

  • Aging is the main risk factor and the one shared by all people.
  • Your ethnicity and geographical location may also have a bearing on whether or not you will develop the disorder.
  • Genetic factors are held responsible for nearly half of nuclear cataract cases so if your relatives have had them then you are more at risk.
  • If you are female you have more of a risk of developing them.
  • Sunlight smoking, alcohol use, nutritional supplements, and a lack of education can be factors in causing cataracts.
  • Exposure to artificial sources ultraviolet B (UV-B rays) such as the rays produced by computers produce lens opacities the eye that can cause a cortical cataract to develop.
  • Scores of different medical conditions including diabetes, diarrhea, dehydration, hypertension, high blood pressure, obesity, hypertension, and use of medications or steroids can increase your risk of developing a cataract. Diabetes can be the direct cause of with cortical and posterior subcapsular cataracts. Research has found that diabetics require cataract surgery more often than nondiabetics. Juvenile diabetes can cause cataracts in youths.
  • Poor nutrition, especially a lack of A, C and E vitamins can cause cataracts.

Diagnosis of Cataracts

Cataracts are diagnosed through the help of a vision chart, which can determine whether or not vision is blurry or dim. The vision chart consists of black letters on a white background that must be read out loud in a darkened room.

If you are diagnosed with cataracts you will also be checked for diseases that can impede a cataract operation such as an abnormal cornea or dry eyes. You may also be tested for diseases that can cause the eye condition including diabetic retinopathy. Tests that may be included are a slit-lamp examination, dilation of the pupil and intraocular pressure.

Treatment of Cataracts

The use of viscoelastics, phacoemulsifcation and the development of intraocular lenses, have made cataract surgery easier and more successful than ever.

The exact type of cataract surgery that is conducted depends on the vision needs of the patience. Surgical intervention is not always prescribed, especially in the very elderly. Instead the individual may be prescribed with vision aids.

The cataract surgeries have high rate of success, but they carry the same type of risks as other surgeries. So, before agreeing to go ahead with cataract surgery the age benefits and lifestyle of the cataract sufferer should be evaluated. In extremely elderly patients having the surgery for cataracts may be more risky or traumatic for the person rather than just living with the disease.