HEALTH CONDITIONS

A comprehensive list of today's common ailments and health conditions.

Cataracts

By Shannon Pierce

Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens, which is behind the pupil and the iris.

 

There are various types of cataracts:

A cortical cataract is diagnosed as a white, wedge-like opacity that starts in the outer corners of the lens and work their way to the center of the lens. Cortical cataracts occur in the lens cortex, which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.

 

People with diabetes or those taking high doses of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a subcapsular cataract. The subcapsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens.

 

Nuclear cataracts form deep in the central area (nucleus) of the lens. Nuclear cataracts are typically associated with aging.

 

Symptoms

At first, cataracts don’t affect your vision greatly. Gradually, you may notice that your vision is blurred slightly. It may become hazy, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass.

 

A cataract may make you more sensitive to light. Driving at night may become more difficult. Colors may not appear as bright as they once did.

 

The symptoms you have and how soon they occur depend on the type of cataract you have. For instance, when a nuclear cataract first develops, it can bring about a temporary improvement in your near vision, called "second sight." Of course, the improved vision is short-lived and will disappear as the cataract worsens. A subcapsular cataract may not produce any symptoms until it's well developed.

 

Causes

The lens in our eye is mostly made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a particular way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it.

Cataracts occur when we age and some of the protein clumps together and starts to cloud a small area of the lens. The more the lens is clouded the more difficult it is to see.

 

Besides advancing age, cataract risk factors include diabetes, obesity, smoking, eye surgeries, UV radiation, medicines to reduce cholesterol, family history, high levels of alcohol consumption and more.

 

Diagnosis

 

Cataracts are relatively simple to diagnose by an ophthalmologist or an optometrist during an eye examination.

 

Treatment

In the initial stages, you may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses, magnification, bifocals, appropriate lighting or other visual aids.

 

Surgery is necessary when cataracts seriously impair vision and affect your daily life.  A surgeon will remove your clouded lens and in most cases replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL).


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