What are Cataracts?
A cataract is a condition when your eye lens becomes cloudy. Having cataracts is like looking through a foggy window. Cataracts can interfere with your daily activities, such as reading, driving and seeing other people’s facial expressions.
Cataracts do not only occur in the elderly, but also in children. Children’s eyes are still developing until they are 8 to 10 years old. That is the reason why untreated cataracts may lead to serious long-term effects on eye vision.
Cataracts usually develop slowly and do not interfere with vision at an early age. However, cataracts will progress over time.
Wearing glasses and using adequate lighting can help you deal with cataract problems. However, if visual disturbances have interfered with your activities, chances are you need to undergo cataract surgery–which is safe and effective.
Causes of Cataracts
Most cataracts are related to age factors. This is due to normal eye changes as you get older. That is when the normal proteins in the lens start to break down and cause a cloudy lens.
People over 60 usually start having problems with their eye lenses. However, vision problems may not occur until several years later.
Other factors that may cause cataracts include:
- Smoking habits
- Family history of having cataracts.
- Certain medical problems, such as diabetes.
- Consumption of certain medications, such as corticosteroids, that may trigger cataracts sooner
- Eye injury, eye surgery, or radiation treatment to the upper part of your body
- Prolonged sun exposure. You should wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays damage
Cataracts will progress over time as you age. Meanwhile, cataracts caused by other factors may develop more quickly, such as in younger people or in diabetics. Doctors cannot predict how fast a person’s cataracts will develop.
When to See a Doctor for Cataracts
To diagnose cataracts, an ophthalmologist will evaluate your medical history and symptoms, and perform an eye exam. Your doctor may perform several tests, including:
- Visual acuity test: Involves using an eye chart to measure the eye’s ability to read a series of letters. Your eyes will be examined one by one, while the other eye is closed.
- Slit-lamp test: Allows your doctor to see the structure in front of your eyes using a slit-lamp. A microscope or slit-lamp uses lines of intense light and provides slits to illuminate the cornea, iris, lens, and the space between the iris and the cornea of the eye. This gap allows your doctor to see the structure in a smaller part and detect any minor abnormalities.
- Retina examination: Your doctor will give you eye drops to dilate your eye pupils, making it easier to examine the retina. A slit-lamp or ophthalmoscope can help your doctor examine the lens and identify any for cataract symptoms.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Signs and symptoms of cataracts will appear over time, such as:
- Faded vision or yellowing of the lens
- Double vision in one eye.
- Halos around lights.
- Sensitivity to glare.
- Cloudy, hazy, dim vision.
- Frequent changes in glasses or contact lenses.
- Night vision problems
- Needs for brighter lights for reading and other activities.
At first, cloudy vision caused by cataracts affects only a small part of your eye lens and you may not notice any vision problems. When a cataract progresses, your lens vision becomes blurred and changes the light that passes through the lens. This is what makes cataract symptoms more obvious
Treatment for Cataracts
Cataracts can be cured through surgery. You may not need surgery when your cataract symptoms are not too severe — you simply need a new eyeglass prescription to improve the quality of your vision. You should consider surgery when cataracts start to affect your daily activities.
During the surgery, your doctor will remove the natural lens of cloudy eyes and replace it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). When you decide to have cataract surgery, your doctor will explain about IOLs and how they work.
After the cataract surgery, you still run the risk of dealing with blurred vision in a few years, which may be caused by a cloudy lens capsule. The capsule is the part of the eye that holds the IOL in place. Your doctor may use a laser to open the cloudy capsule and restore clear vision. This procedure is called a capsulotomy.
Vision loss is mostly caused by cataracts, which can be treated through surgery. Talk to your doctor about your cataract symptoms before making the decision to undergo cataract surgery.
Treatment Cost for Cataracts
Treatment cost for cataract surgery or other treatment may vary. For more details regarding the treatment cost and doctor recommendations for cataract treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Cataracts
You cannot completely prevent cataracts or slow down the progression of cataracts. But there are several strategies that you can do, such as:
- Consume less alcohol. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can increase the risk of cataracts.
- Quit smoking. If it is difficult, ask your doctor for help, medication, counselling, and other strategies to help you quit smoking.
- Get regular eye examinations. Through this eye exam, your ophthalmologist can detect cataracts and other eye problems early on.
- Overcome other health problems. Seek proper medical care if you have diabetes or other health problems that can increase your risk of cataracts.
- Eat healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits which are rich in vitamins and nutrients. Vegetables and fruits contain lots of antioxidants to help maintain eye health.
- Wear sunglasses when you go outside. Sunlight emits UVB rays which may trigger cataracts. It is recommended that you use sunglasses to block UVB exposure when you are outside, especially during daylights
Home Remedies for Cataracts
Home-care treatments that you can try to treat cataract symptoms may include:
- Avoid driving at night.
- Make sure you have accurate glasses or contact lenses’ prescription
- Use a magnifying glass to read if you are having trouble reading.
- Increase the lighting in your home or install more lamps
- Wear sunglasses or a hat to reduce sun exposure when doing outdoor activities.
The suggested home remedies above are relatively easy for you to do. However, as your cataract progresses, your vision may get worse. Consult an ophthalmologist immediately if you feel the need for cataract surgery or further eye treatment.
Have more questions about cataracts? Write in the comment section below or get a teleconsultation with an ophthalmologist at home or abroad through Smarter Health. Tele-consultation is the best solution to facilitate your access to healthcare services in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.