What You Need to Know about Cataracts

Cataracts occur when the eye lens gets clouded, thus leading to a loss of vision. It becomes increasingly difficult to see, since light rays from objects can’t pass through the opaque lens to focus on the retina. A comprehensive eye exam can successfully diagnose cataracts. Here are ten facts that you must know about this common vision problem.

1. Cataracts Are The Major Cause of Blindness in The World

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cataracts account for 51% of worldwide blindness, which is approximately 20 million people. If cases of moderate to severe disability are included, the number would shoot up to 53.8 million!

2. There Are Three Main Types of Cataracts

a) Nuclear Sclerotic: This is a common type that affects the central nucleus of the lens by clouding it.

b) Cortical: They affect the lens cortex, creating blurred vision and problems with depth perception.

c) Posterior Subcapsular: This affects the ‘posterior’ or back surface of the lens. Symptoms include ‘halo’ effects.

3. There Are Risk Factors

One of the major risk factors for cataract includes diabetes. Diabetic patients are more likely to develop cataracts — especially at a younger age and particularly cortical cataracts. Other risks include hypertension and malnutrition. You can further decrease the risk by avoiding excessive drinking, smoking and exposure to ultraviolet light.

4. Cataracts Can Be Eliminated at Any Stage

Cataract eye surgery is the only treatment to completely eliminate cataracts. You can choose to have the surgery at any stage; there is no need to wait until the cataract becomes extremely severe to go ahead with the surgery.

5. The Use of Artificial Lenses as A Corrective Measure Was Discovered during World War I

Sir Harold Ridley can be credited with using artificial lenses as a corrective measure for cataracts. While treating RAF patients with eye injuries, he noticed that the eye didn’t reject the acrylic splinters from shattered cockpit canopies that became lodged in the eyes of wounded pilots. This led to the use of artificial lenses in eye surgery.

6. Cataracts Can’t Grow Back

They are eliminated permanently in surgery.

7. “Close Work” Isn’t Responsible for Cataracts

Activities like reading or sewing are the cause of cataracts. It is a natural part of the eye’s aging process.

8. Babies Can be Born with Cataracts

Congenital cataract is a type that affects babies and can occur as a result of some infectious conditions in the mother during pregnancy such as chicken pox, rubella, syphilis and cytomegalovirus.

9. Cataracts Cannot Spread from One Eye to Another

However, they can affect either or both eyes simultaneously or at different times.

10. Cataract Surgery Is Low Risk

Cataract surgery is a highly perfected surgery with a 95% success rate. There might be some risks based on individual cases, which can be discussed with the surgeon, and it is important to take necessary precautions post-surgery. For example, no rubbing or touching of eyes, no eye makeup for a few weeks post-surgery, use sunglasses even at home, use protective eye wear while sleeping and avoid the sun, exercise, working on laptops and driving for a few days.

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