Cataract : Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Overview

A cataract is a dense and cloudy area that forms on the lens of the eye. When proteins in the eye form clumps preventing the lens from sending any clear image to the retina, cataract is formed. The function of the retina is to convert light into signals. It then sends the signals to the optic nerve, which then carries them to the brain. Cataract doesn’t develop suddenly; it forms slowly and gradually starts interfering with everyday life of the person. Cataract can form in one or both the eyes, but usually, they don’t form at the same time. Cataracts are commonly witnessed in older people than younger ones.

Facts on cataract:

  • A cataract is a clouding of the eye lens.

  • Cataracts develop when proteins in the lens clump together.

  • More than half of the Indians have cataracts by the time they turn 70.

  • Major factors leading to cataracts are – exposure to sun, obesity, smoking, high myopia, eye injury, and family history.

  • There are three types of cataracts – subcapsular, nuclear, and cortical.

  • Cataract is considered to be the most common eye problem faced by people as they age.

  • Cataract surgery is considered to be one of the most perfected surgeries in the world.

Signs and symptoms of cataract:

Note these following signs and symptoms to understand if you have cataract:

  • Cloudy eyes – When cataract starts to form, it might have little effect in your life. But eventually, cataracts will start affecting your life and hamper your day to day activity. Your vision will become cloudy, dim or blurry as the effect increases.

  • Problems driving at night – As the problem of cataract advances, it begins to affect the person’s night vision. As a result, the person can have problems driving. If you suspect you have cataract, it is better to refrain from driving during night time.

  • Problems with glare during the day – One of the common symptoms of cataracts is, sensitivity to light. People suffering from cataracts will often see bright glares of light which can be painful, especially for those with posterior subcapsular cataracts.

  • Halos – The clouding of the eye lens can cause halos to appear around the sources of light. It is quite common for people with cataracts to see rings of light.

  • Double vision in the affected eye – Cataracts can lead you to see two or more images of one particular object. Which means that the image and the trouble, both doubles.

What causes cataracts?

The lens of the eye works similar to that of a camera lens. It focuses light on the retina to help a person have clear vision. The eye lens is mostly made of protein and water. The protein in the eye helps pass light through it. But as people age, the proteins in the eye may clump together and gradually form a cloudy area on the eye lens. This is known as cataract. Over time, the cataract may increase, become large and make it harder for the person to see anything. Researchers from all over the world have associated the following causes with the development of cataracts in the eyes:

  • Diabetes

  • Hypertension

  • Obesity

  • Ultraviolet radiation

  • Previous eye injury

  • Previous eye surgery

  • Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications

  • Statin medicines used to reduce cholesterol

  • Smoking

  • Hormonal replacement therapy

  • High alcohol consumption

  • High myopia

  • Family history

Types of cataract:

There are two types of cataract:

  • Subcapsular cataract – It occurs at the back of the lens. People with high diabetes or high doses of steroid medications are at a greater risk of developing this form of cataract.

  • Nuclear cataract – This form of cataracts develop deep in the central zone of the lens. Nuclear cataract usually forms with aging.

  • Cortical cataract – In this form of cataract, white, wedge like opacities form in the periphery of the lens. This form of cataract occurs in the cortex of the lens.

Diagnosis

Your ophthalmologist will assess your eye and check the vision clarity. Your doctor might ask you to go through an eye chart test to check your vision from a distance. The doctor might also check your eye pressure. This is known as the tonometry test. To check your pupils, the doctor might put drops in your eyes which will make the pupils bigger. This is done to check the optic nerve and to confirm if there is any damage to the retina of the eye. The ophthalmologist might ask you to do a few more tests to check your eye’s sensitivity to glare and perception of colors.

Treatments

Cataract Treatment in Ayurveda

Cataract is called ‘timira’ or ‘linga nasha’ in ayurveda. Vata is considered to be the responsible factor of the occurrence of cataract. The aim of ayurveda is to reduce the aggravated body energies, and strengthen the nerves and tissues of the eye in order to cure cataract. There are various herbal remedies in Ayurveda :

  • Maha triphala ghrita is usually considered quite beneficial for cataract in ayurveda.

  • One can consume Triphala choorna with warm water. This concoction can also be used to wash the eyes.

  • Chandrodaya varti can also be applied to the eye. It promotes blood circulation in the eyes.

Though these remedies are said to be beneficial, the only cure is still Surgery.

Surgery

MICS – Microincision cataract surgery (MICS) is an approach to remove cataract through incision less than 1.8 mm. The purpose of the surgery is to improve the outcome of the surgery. MICS has been relied on to be a minimally traumatic surgery that offers better postoperative outcomes. In this sophisticated cataract surgery, a high degree of surgical precision and innovation is used. Advantages of MICS include:

  • Smaller incision

  • Decreased chances of surgically induced astigmatism

  • Faster recovery of vision

  • Faster healing

FLACS – Femtosecond laser assisted cataract surgery (FLACS) is a recent development in the field of cataract surgery. FLACS carry lesser risks compared to non-FLACS small incision phacoemulsification cataract surgery. Compared to manual techniques, FLACS can offer a greater level of precision and repeatability for certain tissue planes. Phacoemulsification, or phaco – In this process, a small incision is made on the side of the cornea. The ophthalmologist will then insert a tiny probe into the eye. The device will emit ultrasound waves to soften and break the lens. The broken parts are then removed by suction.

Preventions of cataract:

The old saying, prevention is better than cure, is as valid for cataract as for any other disease. Here are a few significant ways to prevent the loss of vision due to cataract:

  • Modify your daily diet

  • Stop smoking

  • Protection from ultraviolet radiation

  • Control your blood sugar

  • Avoid trauma

  • Cut down on unnecessary use of steroids

  • Regular eye check up

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