Cataracts: Not the end of the world


Cataracts: Not the end of the world

So, what is a cataract?

In short, a cataract is the clouding of a usually clear lens of the eye. While a cataract can occur in one (or both) eyes, it cannot spread from one to the other. A cataract occurs as a result of a protein build-up in the lens of your eye. The build up starts small and grows over time.

 

Are cataracts always due to aging?

No! A majority of Cataracts are directly related to aging, but there are other types of Cataracts, too. Here are some examples:

  1. Secondary cataract: a cataract formed after an unrelated eye surgery, say for glaucoma. A secondary cataract may also be the result of other health problems like diabetes, smoking, and obesity.
  2. Traumatic cataract: a cataract that develops after injury to the eye. Traumatic cataracts can occur years after trauma.
  3. Radiation cataract: a cataract that develops after exposure to certain kinds of radiation.

An image

What are the symptoms?

Because the cataract is a clouding of the lens, your retina will not be able to get a sharp image. Visually, you’ll experience:

  • Heightened sensitivity to light
  • Brownish tint to vision
  • Cloudy vision
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty seeing in dim light
  • Poor night vision
  • Vision loss
  • Difficulty identifying blues and purples
  • Seeing ‘halos’ around lights

Some positive news: cataracts are not painful.

 

Are cataracts treatable?

Yes!

When you first start to notice the symptoms of a cataract, there are numerous steps you can take to improve your vision. For instance, try wearing new glasses, bifocals or contacts, using a magnifying glass, and improving the lighting around you.

Cataract surgery is also available for those more severe cataracts that have developed over the years. The procedure involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial one, called an intraocular lens (IOL).

Currently, there are two types of cataract surgery:

  1. Phacoemulsification (Phaco): An ultrasound device breaks up the lens to be removed by suction. This procedure is also referred to as “small incision cataract surgery.”
  2. Extracapsular surgery: As opposed to breaking up the lens, it is removed in one piece. This type of cataract surgery is performed less frequently.

How can I prevent getting cataracts?

Because the protein build-up associated with cataracts can be due to a multitude of secondary factors including family history and diabetes, researchers are on the fence about whether or not it’s possible to entirely prevent cataracts. There are, however, studies that suggest consuming certain nutrients, in addition to making other healthy life decisions, will help to reduce your risk of getting cataracts.

  • It’s recommended that you consume a hefty amount of vitamin E (sources include almonds, seeds, and green leafy vegetables).
  • Antioxidants, more specifically vitamen C, have also demonstrated their ability to help reduce the risk of cataracts.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are all-around good for your eyes and should be consumed regularly.

As with most health concerns in life, it’s important that you have a balanced diet and exercise regularly. If you’re a smoker, quit! If you drink too heavily, take it easy! When you go outdoors, wear protective sunglasses that block 100% of the sun’s UV rays. 


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