A cataract occurs when the transparent lens of the eye becomes cloudy. It causes clouded vision making it more challenging to read, drive a car (especially during the night) and even see the expression on a friend's face. The eyesight with a cataract feels like seeing through a frosty or fogged-up window.
The condition develops slowly and doesn't bother the eyesight in the early stages. Initially, good lighting and eyeglass may help in dealing with cataracts. But with time, cataracts may eventually interfere the sight.
However, cataract surgery is needed when impaired vision interferes with the usual activities, which is a safe, effective procedure.
Understand the symptoms
The signs of cataracts are clouded, blurred or dim vision, sensitivity to light and glare, brighter light is needed for reading and other activities. The other symptoms are difficulty with vision at night, seeing "halos" around lights, fading or yellowing of colors, and double vision in a single eye—also, several changes in the prescription of eyeglass or contact lens.
In the early stages, the cloudiness in the vision due to a cataract might affect only a tiny part of the eye's lens without you experiencing any vision loss. But when the cataract grows bigger, it may cloud more of the lens and distorts the light passing through it, becoming a more noticeable symptom.
Consult the doctor
Get a doctor's appointment for an eye exam when you notice vision changes. See your doctor right away when you develop sudden vision changes, like double vision or flashes of light, sudden eye pain, or a headache.
Know the causes
Cataracts mainly develop due to ageing or injury that alters the tissue that forms the eye's lens. Cataracts may also occur from other eye conditions, like past eye surgery or medical conditions like diabetes and long-term use of steroid medications. Even some inherited genetic disorders can lead to some health conditions that raise the risk of cataracts.
Types of cataracts
The different kinds of cataracts are as follows:
• Nuclear cataracts happen at the center of the lens, initially causing more nearsightedness or even a temporary improvement in the reading vision. With time, it slowly turns densely yellow and further clouds the sight. And then, as the cataract slowly progresses, the lens turns brown, and advanced yellowing or browning of the lens results in difficulty distinguishing between shades of color.
• Cortical cataracts occur on the edges of the lens, which starts as whitish, wedge-shaped opacities or strips on the outer rim of the lens cortex. It slowly progresses and extends the streaks to the center, preventing light from passing through the center of the lens.
• Posterior subcapsular cataracts hit the back of the lens, which begins as a small, opaque area that forms typically near the back of the lens, right in the path of light. This cataract progresses faster than other types do. The condition often interferes with reading sight, reduces the vision in bright light, and creates glare or halos around lights at night.
• Congenital cataracts come with birth and are genetics, as some are born with cataracts or develop them during childhood, associated with an intrauterine infection or trauma. These occur due to certain conditions, like myotonic dystrophy, galactosemia, neurofibromatosis type 2 or rubella. When removed soon after detection, these don't affect vision.
Recognise the risk
• Cataract risk rises with age, health conditions like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, excessive exposure to sunlight, previous eye injury or inflammation and, eye surgery. Even prolonged use of corticosteroid medications, smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol raise the risk.
Measures for prevention
There are no proven methods to prevent cataracts or slow the progression of cataracts, but these strategies may help:
• Get regular eye examinations done to detect cataracts and other eye problems at their earliest stages.
• Avoid smoking and get help from the doctor on ways to stop smoking.
• Manage other health problems with a proper treatment plan to lessen the risk of the cataract.
• Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, ensuring your body gets many vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants, which help maintain the eyes' health.
• Wear sunglasses to block the ultraviolet light from the sun that may contribute to the development of cataracts.
• Reduce alcohol use as it increases the risk of cataracts.