A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye which results in blurred vision and can lead to blindness if left untreated. Although many factors influence the development of cataracts, they are usually attributed to the abnormal clustering of proteins in the eye lens. In a healthy state, the lens proteins are arranged to allow light to pass through unobstructed. As people age, lens protein formations tend to lose their structure, resulting in cataract formation.
According to the World Health Organization, age-related cataracts are responsible for vision loss in almost 18 million people worldwide. Cataract diagnoses are more becoming more prevalent as populations grow older, with 60% of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 suffering from the condition, and 91% of Americans between the ages of 75 and 85.
Unfortunately, there is no scientifically proven method to reduce the risk of cataract formation, though many eye care specialists recommend wearing UV-protecting sunglasses and maintaining a proper diet to slow down the process.
Eye Cataract Formation
When a cataract forms, light is unable to pass through the lens of the eye to the retina. This allows only a small percentage of light to be transmitted, resulting in blurry, hazy, or double vision. If the cataract progresses for long enough, it may obscure the lens entirely and cause total blindness in the affected eye.
Some cataracts only cover a portion of the eye lens and do not need to be removed immediately. However, if the cataract grows to obscure a larger section of the eye and significantly impairs vision, surgical procedures can be performed to remove the cataract. Keep in mind that it is impossible for cataracts to spread from eye to eye, though it is possible to develop cataracts in both eyes at the same time.
If you have a cataract forming in your peripheral vision, it may be difficult to notice. As the cataract grows, it can build up into the center of your field of vision, making it more obvious and uncomfortable.
While cataracts are forming, you may find that you need to change your eyeglass prescription more often in order to keep up with the development of the condition. At a certain point your corrective lenses will no longer be able to do their job, and surgery becomes the most effective form of treatment.
Eye Cataract Treatments
Cataract surgery is only recommended to patients whose vision and daily life are significantly impacted by cataracts. Before the decision to undergo surgery is made, it is important to have a thorough eye examination and seek the advice of a certified eye care specialist. Your specialist will use tests to determine your visual acuity – if your vision is 20/40 or better, it may be inadvisable to have surgery performed unless you are convinced that your cataracts have a significant impact on your ability to live a normal life.
Thanks to modern medical technology, cataracts surgery can be performed under local anesthesia and completed in an hour or less. The two most common procedures are extracapsular surgery, during which the lens is removed from the eye while the posterior capsule remains, and photoemulsification, which is an extracapsular procedure that softens the lens is with high-frequency sound waves before removal removed. The posterior capsule of the eye remains after both procedures.
After surgery, it may be possible to drive home, though it is recommend you have someone else drive you while you wear a protective eye patch. Many patients report an immediate increase in vision, while others report optimal improvements after a few months of healing. Cataracts surgery is not intended to correct your vision, so if you were wearing prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses before the surgery, you will still have to wear them when the procedure is finished.
If you have any questions about cataract symptoms or treatments, contact your local eye doctor. This is a common condition that many people develop as they grow older, and your certified specialist has the knowledge to guide you from start to finish. As always, make sure to schedule regular eye exams to stay informed of your eye health and to keep your eye conditions under the supervision and observation of a trained professional.
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