According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cataract is the cause of visual impairment in 33% of people in the world. It is also the first cause of blindness in 51% of these cases. With 285 million visually impaired people in the world, 39 million of whom are blind, perhaps now is the right question to ask, what is a cataract?
What is a cataract?
A cataract is defined as the “clouding of the lens of the eye which prevents clear vision. Although most cases of cataract are related to the aging process, occasionally, children can be born with the condition, or cataracts may develop after eye injuries, inflammation, and some other eye diseases.”
Cataract is responsible for the blindness of 20 million people in the world in 2010. It is very common among older people. It is estimated that by the age of 80, over half of the American population either have a cataract or have had corrective surgery to fix it. It cannot spread from one infected eye to the other, and it can occur in either or both eyes.
What are its causes?
According to WebMD, a cataract is developed when “protein builds up in the lens of your eye and makes it cloudy. This keeps light from passing through clearly. It can cause you to lose some of your eyesight.”
There are four leading causes of cataracts. Namely:
- Age-related – This is the most typical among cataract cases. Getting cloudy vision is part of the aging process.
- Congenital – This is when babies are born with cataracts. They may be caused by poor development, injury, or infection in the womb.
- Secondary – This occurs when the cataract is a byproduct of other medical conditions, such as diabetes. Other causes of secondary cataract are exposure to toxic substances, radiation, ultraviolet lights, or side effects from medication.
- Traumatic – Cataract can form when there is a blunt force to the eye, or if the eye is injured in such a way that it can create protein buildup.
Aside from these causes, there are several risk factors for getting a cataract. Exposure to air pollution is one of the more common factors, as well as unhealthy lifestyle choices such as smoking and heavy drinking.
What are its symptoms?
The cloudy film in the eye does not develop overnight. It develops slowly, and at first, the symptoms can be difficult to detect until such a time that the film has grown to the point that it has already clouded over your vision.
Here are some symptoms commonly associated with cataracts:
- Poor night vision such as when driving
- Frequent changes of prescription for contact lenses or glasses, and complaining that the eyewear is not working for the patient
- Sensitivity to glare and light
- Experiencing cloudy, blurry, filmy, or foggy vision
- Experiencing double vision in the affected eye
- Changes with the way you view color
Many of these symptoms are associated with many eye problems. For this reason, it pays to see a specialist from the onset of the symptoms to ensure that you are getting the right treatment for it.
How is it treated?
Cataract treatment varies. At the onset of the symptoms, most people will go to eye specialists to get their prescription glasses updated with stronger bifocals. Others will rely on visual aids and appropriate lighting, such as when the clouding in their vision occurs when they are reading.
In most cases, however, doctors will suggest that the cataracts be surgically removed when they have reached the point of obscuring your vision, or when they are obscuring the doctor’s view of your eyes when they are examining your eye.
While the word “surgery” may strike fear into the hearts of many, cataract removal is actually among the more common surgical procedures in America. In fact, it is performed on at least 3 million Americans every year. It also has a very high success rate, with over 90% of patients saying that their vision is restored.
What can I expect from the surgery?
Your doctor will conduct several tests to measure the shape of your eye and the curve of your cornea, as well as other tests. This will help him choose the right intraocular lens (IOL) which will be surgically used to replace your lens.
During the surgery, drops will be put into your eye to numb it as well as to dilate the pupil. The area surrounding your eye will also be cleansed. Your lens will be removed from your eye and will be replaced with an IOL. This is mostly an outpatient procedure and you can go home after a brief rest.
Do I still need to wear eyewear after surgery?
Unless you chose presbyopia-correcting IOLs, then yes, you will still need your eyewear to see clearly after your cataract surgery. This is where determining the right IOL comes into play, because the right IOL will help you see better without you needing the help of prescription glasses or contact lenses.
The more common types of IOL are:
- Standard monofocal IOL – This is an immovable IOL that gives you improved vision at one distance post-surgery. Some patients who chose this IOL had to wear glasses after surgery, even though their eyesight was okay before surgery.
- Toric IOL – Some can remove the need for glasses after surgery, while other Toric IOLs can correct astigmatism.
- Multifocal IOL – This one can give you improved near and distance vision. Some patients though have difficulty adjusting to the improved vision given by their multifocal IOL.
- Accommodating IOL – This one accommodates your needs based on your eye’s natural muscles. As a result, this offers an improved, fuller, and natural range of vision.
Different types of IOLs have varying drawbacks, but many of them have major advantages, too. If you want to stop wearing glasses or contact lenses after undergoing cataract surgery, contact us at 623-474-3937 (EYES) for apt solutions and treatment recommendations.