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Things You Should Know About Cataract

Written by Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna on Fri, 11 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • The typically clear lens of the eye becomes clouded due to a cataract.
  • Aging, diabetes, eye injury, and long-term use of steroids are the causes of cataracts.
  • Cataracts can be of different types and affect those who are more susceptible to them.
  • Blurred, cloudy, faded vision and the needs for bright light to read are the common symptoms of cataracts.
  • For diagnosis and treatment of cataracts consult your ophthalmologist.
  • Eat a healthy diet after surgery and avoid sugar, salt-containing, processed and spicy food.
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You must have noticed that as your grandparents and parents age, they complain of reduced vision. A major reason for this could be cataract issues.

Cataract is one of the most common issues for ageing people. Let us know all about cataracts below.

What is a cataract?

The typically clear lens of the eye becomes clouded due to a cataract. Cataract sufferers may compare viewing through clouded lenses to looking through a frosty or fogged-up window.

It can be more challenging to read, drive a car (especially at night), or notice the expression on a friend's face when one's vision is clouded by cataracts.

It is the most common, curable cause of vision loss and blindness worldwide. Most cataracts grow slowly and don't initially impair your vision. However, cataracts will eventually obstruct your vision over time.

You can manage cataracts at first by using greater lighting and spectacles. However, if your normal activities are hampered by your poor vision, cataract surgery may be necessary.

The good news is that cataract surgery is typically a risk-free, successful treatment.

Prevalence of cataracts

Approximately 90% of blindness is caused by cataracts in developing countries. Cataracts are very common in older people. Up to 50% of people over 80 years old have cataracts.

61% of women have cataracts. Women are suffering more from cataracts than men.

Signs and symptoms of cataracts

Signs and symptoms of cataracts
 

An example of symptoms and early signs of cataract is:

  • Nighttime vision challenges.
  • Sensitive to glare, headlights, lamps, and other forms of light.
  • Cloudy, fuzzy, and foggy.
  • Fading vision or pale-colored vision.
  • An eye with a twofold vision.
  • Need bright light to read.
  • Suddenly becoming nearsighted.

Who is at risk of developing a cataract?

People at the age of 40 are likely to develop cataracts. But you probably won't notice any symptoms until you reach your 60s.

  • Smoking cigarettes.
  • Consuming heavy alcohol.
  • Family history with cataracts.
  • People living in areas with bad air pollution are more likely to have a higher risk of cataracts.

Sometimes, in rare cases, babies are born with cataracts as a birth defect.

People can get cataracts in both eyes. This condition is worse when your entire vision is blurred. One eye's vision is worse than the other or develops later damage.

Causes of Cataract

The main cause of cataracts is age. Other than that, disease conditions, eye surgery or injury, long-term use of steroids, and genetics, may also be responsible. The causes of cataracts are described below:

  • Aging: Commonly, aging can make your eyes weak. The eyes and their lenses mostly contain water and proteins. As protein breaks down with aging, it accumulates around your eyes. These lingering proteins can make your lens cloudy and your vision becomes blurry. This is a common and unpleasant part of aging.
  • Diabetes: Patients with diabetes are reported to be five times more likely to develop cataracts, particularly at an early age. Cataract surgeries are increasing each year in patients with diabetes mellitus.
  • Eye injuries: Eye surgeries or eye injuries in childhood can also cause cataracts at an early age. Frequent eye surgery is dangerous for the eyes and brain. After a major eye injury, eye care should be a priority. Otherwise, it can cause eye issues.
  • Long-term use of steroids: Steroids are common medicines used to treat arthritis, lupus, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders. This medication is not good for your overall well-being. especially for your kidneys and eyes. Steroids can lead to the development of cataracts. You should consult with your doctor about your eye health if you are taking steroids.

Formation of cataracts

A clouded lens is a cataract. Your eye's shimmery portion is in front of the lens (iris). The retina, the light-sensitive membrane in the eye that works like the film in a camera, receives clean, sharp images from the lens by focusing light that enters your eye.

The lenses in your eyes get thicker, less flexible, and less transparent as you get older. Proteins and fibers within the lenses deteriorate and clump together as a result of aging and other medical disorders, clouding the lenses.

The cloudiness gets denser as the cataract progresses. A cataract prevents your retina from receiving a clearly defined vision by scattering and blocking light as it travels through the lens. Your eyes will become hazy as a result.

Types of Cataract

Cataract types include:

1. Nuclear cataracts

A nuclear cataract may cause nearsightedness in reading vision. With time, the lens gradually turns a dense yellow and then turns brown, causing cloudy vision.

2. Cortical cataracts

A cortical cataract starts as whitish, wedge-shaped opacities on the outer edge of the lens cortex. With time, the streaks extend to the center and interfere with passing light through the lens.

3. Congenital cataracts

Some people are born with cataracts or develop them during childhood. This cataract is associated with trauma or a genetic defect. Congenital cataracts don't always affect vision.

4. Posterior subcapsular cataracts

A posterior subcapsular cataract begins as a small black spot on the lens, right in the path of light. It impairs reading vision and makes it harder to see in bright light. This type of cataracts progresses faster than other types of cataracts.

Risk factors of cataract

Increasing age is the main factor in developing cataracts.

Risk factors of cataract
 

Other factors that increase your risk of cataracts include:

  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Excessive sunlight exposure
  • Diabetes
  • Eye injury
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Prolonged use of medications like corticosteroids
  • Drinking excessive alcohol

Diagnosis of cataract

Your doctor will examine your eyes, look over your medical history, and ask you about your symptoms to determine whether you have a cataract. Your physician may order several tests, including:

  • Visual acuity test: A visual acuity test evaluates your ability to read a series of letters using an eye chart. One of your eyes is tested at a time, with the other covered. Your eye doctor will check your vision using a chart or a device with progressively smaller letters to see if you have 20/20 vision or if there are any warning signs of vision impairment.
  • Slit-lamp examination: Using a slit-lamp, your eye doctor can magnify the structures in front of your eye. The cornea, iris, lens, and space between your iris and cornea are all illuminated by the microscope, which is known as a "slit lamp" because it uses an intense line of light. The slit makes it possible for your doctor to view these structures in sections, which makes it simpler to spot any minute anomalies.
  • Retinal examination: Your eye doctor will administer drops to dilate (open wide) your pupils in preparation for a retinal examination. Examining the retina on the back of your eyes is now simpler as a result. Your eye doctor can check your lens for indicators of a cataract using a slit lamp or a specialized tool called an ophthalmoscope.
  • Applanation tonometry: This examination determines the fluid pressure inside of your eye. To do this, a variety of devices are available.

Treatment of cataracts

When your cataracts start to negatively impact your quality of life or make it difficult for you to carry out regular daily tasks like reading or nighttime driving, most eye doctors will advise that you think about having cataract surgery.

You and your doctor can decide if cataract surgery is the best course of action for you.

Cataracts typically do not harm the eyes, most people are not in a rush to have them removed. However, people with certain conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or obesity, may experience cataracts that worsen more quickly.

If you later decide to have cataract surgery, delaying the procedure typically won't have an impact on how well your vision recovers. Spend some time discussing the advantages and disadvantages of cataract surgery with your doctor.

Your eye doctor may advise regular follow-up exams to determine how your cataracts are progressing if you decide against having cataract surgery right away.

Benefits of surgery

After surgery, you should be able to see clearly, tell the difference between colors, able to look into the light, and not see much glare.

Risk of surgery

The major risk of serious complications developing after cataract surgery appears in around 1 in 50 cases.

Complication includes:

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of vision

Most of these complications can be treated with medication.

Prevention of Cataract

Prevention of Cataract
 

Studies have demonstrated how to stop cataracts from forming or delay their development. However, doctors believe that several methods, such as:

1. Regularly check your eyes: Eye exams can aid in the early detection of cataracts and other eye issues. How frequently should you have your eyes examined? Ask your doctor.

2. Quit smoking: Consult your physician for advice on quitting smoking. You have access to medications, counseling, and other treatment options.

3. Be mindful of medical issues: If you have diabetes or another illness that can raise your risk of cataracts, stick to your treatment plan.

4. Check your diet: You can make sure you're getting a lot of vitamins and nutrients by including a variety of vibrant fruits and vegetables in your diet. Antioxidants are plentiful in fruits and vegetables, which support eye health. Antioxidants taken as pills have not been proven to be effective in preventing cataracts. But a recent large-scale population study found a link between a healthy diet high in vitamins and minerals and a lower risk of developing cataracts. Fruits and vegetables are a safe way to increase your dietary intake of minerals and vitamins and have several health benefits that have been scientifically proven.

5. Give your eyes some rest: Looking at a computer for a long time can tire out your eyes. Rest your eyes by taking a break every 20 minutes to look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
 

6. Put on sunglasses: The development of cataracts may be influenced by the sun's ultraviolet rays. When you're outside, put on sunglasses that block ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.

7. Drink less alcohol: The risk of cataracts can rise with excessive alcohol consumption.

Diet for cataract patients

Diet for cataract patients
 

The patient should have only healthy food, such as:

  • Protein-rich food: pork, beef, seafood, eggs, milk, grains.
  • Fat-rich food: avocados, nuts, seeds.
  • Omega 3 rich food: tuna, salmon, mackerel fish.
  • Starch-rich food: whole grains, oats, rice, legumes, sweet potato.
  • Vegetables and fruits.
  • Other vitamins and minerals containing food.

Foods to prevent cataracts

After cataract surgery patients should avoid:

  • High-sugar foods
  • Processed food
  • Salted food
  • Spicy food
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Preservative-containing food

Conclusion

By now you know, cataracts are a common eye issue in elderly people.

As age increases, your eyes start getting weak and vision issues develop. Diabetes, eye injury, infection, and long-term use of steroids may cause cataracts. The need for bright light to read, cloudy, foggy, blurred vision, and two-fold vision are common symptoms of cataracts.

Cataract eye surgery is the first-line treatment. To prevent cataracts, regularly get your eyes checked, wear sunglasses, and give up on smoking and drinking alcohol. Eat a healthy diet after cataract surgery and avoid spicy, salted, processed, and high-sugar-containing food items.

With this knowledge and essential steps, you are all buckled up to deal with and prevent cataracts. Take care!

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Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna

Dr. Pulyk Nataliya Omelanivna is an Internal Medical Expert who is based out of Ukraine. With a special interest in internal medicine Dr Pulyk graduated from the Ternopil National Medical Academy in Ukraine, in the year 2001. Between the years 2002-2009, Dr Pulyk worked as an emergency physician. Her years of work as an emergency physician gave her immense exposure to a range of patients and an opportunity to learn on the job, and gather extensive experience.

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  1. Cataracts, available at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cataracts/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353795
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