A cataract is a clouding or opaque area that forms over the lens of the eye an area that is normally transparent. As thickening occurs and cataracts form, it prevents light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina. This clouding is caused when some of the protein which makes up the lens begins to become opaque and interferes with vision.
In its early stages, a cataract may not cause a problem. The cloudiness may affect only a small portion of the lens. Over time the cataract may become denser and affect more of the lens, making it harder to see. As less light reaches the retina, it becomes increasingly more difficult to see, causing vision to become dull and blurry. While cataracts cannot spread from one eye to another, many persons develop cataracts in both eyes.
What causes cataracts?
Although scientists do not know for sure what causes all cataracts, they suspect there could be several possible causes including:
- Excessive exposure to sunlight
- Steroid use
Cataract symptoms can vary from patient to patient and may include:
-Cloudy or blurry vision
- Lights appear too bright and/or present a glare or a surrounding halo
- Poor or reduced night vision
- Multiple vision
- Colors may appear faded
- Increased nearsightedness and the increasing the need to change eyeglass prescriptions
Often in the disease's early stages, you may not notice any changes in your vision. Since cataracts tend to progress slowly, your vision will worsen gradually. Certain cataracts can also cause a temporary improvement in close-up vision, but this is likely to worsen as the cataract grows more dense. The symptoms of cataracts may resemble other eye conditions, it is best to consult an ophthalmologist for diagnosis.
According to the National Eye Institute, cataracts fall into four catagories:
- Age-related cataracts - The majority of cataracts are related to aging.
r Congenital cataracts - Some babies are born with cataracts or develop them during childhood. Some congenital cataracts do not affect vision, but others do and need to be removed.
- Secondary cataracts - Secondary cataracts can develop as a result of another disease occurrence in the body, such as diabetes
- Traumatic cataracts - Eyes that have sustained an injury may develop a traumatic cataract either immediately following the incident, or as much as several years later.
In addition to a complete medical history and eye examination, diagnostic procedures utilized for diagnosing cataracts may include:
- Visual acuity testing the common eye chart test which measures vision ability at various distances.
- Pupil dilation the pupil is widened with eye drops to allow a complete examination of the eye.
Other tests may also be performed to help your eye surgeon to learn more about the health and structure of your eye.
Risk Factors for Cataracts?
Among the risk factors for cataracts are:
- Age - The greatest risk factor for cataracts is age. Age-related cataracts may develop between 40 and 50 years old, vision is usually not affected greatly until after age 60.
- Excessive sun exposure - People who spend more time in the sun may develop cataracts earlier than others.
Treatment for cataracts
In its early stages, vision loss caused by a cataract may be eased with the use of different eyeglasses, a magnifying glass, or stronger lighting. When these measures are no longer helpful, surgery is the only effective treatment available, for most individuals. It is important to note that a cataract only needs to be removed when vision loss interferes with everyday activities such as driving, reading, or watching television.
What is involved in cataract
Cataract surgery is one of the most common operations performed and one of the safest and most effective. Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with a substitute lens. If cataracts are present in both eyes, they should not be removed at the same time; surgery would need to be performed separately on each eye.
Cataracts are generally removed using sound waves under topical anesthesia with sedation. (no shots, sutures or patches)
- Phacoemulsification (also called small incision cataract surgery)
This is the most common type of cataract removal procedure and involves making a small incision (1/9 inch) on the side of the cornea the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye where a tiny probe emits ultrasound waves to soften and break up the cloudy center of the lens. The cataract is then removed by suction through the same incision. An intraocular lens implant replaces the natural lens (that became cloudy). Multifocal implants can be used to restore both distance and near vision with the goal of eliminating the need for glasses after surgery.
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George Sadka, M.D. and Stefano Carpenetti, D. O. are board certified ophthalmologists and partners in Susquehanna Eye Associates along with Melissa Randecker O.D., practicing in Lock Haven. Susquehanna Eye Associates offer full eye examinations and prescription glasses are made on sight at 930 Bellefonte Ave. They offer LASER, Cataract, Glaucoma, Diabetic and Oculoplastic treatments as well as services including Botox, Dysport treatments and Restylane dermal fillers. They can be contacted at 748-8900. Dr. Sadka and Dr. Carpenetti perform surgical procedures including cataract removals at Lock Haven Hospital.