Cataracts: All you need to know

Cataract is a vision disorder that occurs when the small oval lens behind the pupil loses its transparency. When the lens becomes opaque, the light cannot reach the retina as well, greatly diminishing vision. The pupil lens plays the same role as a camera lens: to focus the image with respect to the distance of the object. The lens achieves it by deforming to change its curvature.

Cataracts often develop over time as the structure of the lens changes. The prominent hypothesis affirms that the proteins of the crystalline lens are altered by free radicals, substances naturally produced by the body, and the aging of your eye. Free radicals are partly neutralized by antioxidants, mainly derived from the fruits and vegetables.

Who is affected?

From age 65, most people have a cataract onset. Opacification of the lens does not cause significant visual detriment if it only exists on the periphery.

After the age of 75, two-thirds of Americans have cataracts advanced enough to affect their vision. Vision loss tends to get worse with age, and cataracts is the most common cause.

Types of cataract

There are several forms of cataracts, here are the main ones.

  1. Senile cataract

    The majority of cataracts occur in the elderly. The normal aging process can result in hardening and opacification of the lens. Age-related cataracts often affect one eye more than the other.

  2. Secondary cataract

    Certain diseases (especially diabetes), taking certain medications (for example, oral cortisone), or exposure to high doses of radiation may be the cause of cataracts. In addition, having surgery to the eye or having certain eye problems (such as high myopia, glaucoma or retinal detachment) makes you at increased risk of cataracts.

  3. The traumatic cataract

    It occurs as a result of an injury to the eye that damages the lens.

  4. Cataract in children

    Cataracts can occur from birth, but it’s extremely rare. It may accompany a congenital disease (for example, trisomy 21) or result from an infectious disease of the mother transmitted to the fetus during pregnancy.

Evolution of cataract

Cataract is usually detected during an eye exam by an eye doctor. Any change in the quality of vision should prompt consultation with an eye doctor.

Symptoms

  • Vision is slowly becoming increasingly blurry or obscured.
  • Double vision or glare more common in the presence of bright lights.
  • Impaired color perception.
  • A veiled vision. Objects appear as if they were behind a white veil.
  • An increased need for prescription changes. Cataracts accentuate myopia(near-sightedness). If you’re myopic and your prescription is rapidly becoming less effective, you may be developing cataracts.

People at risk

Everyone is at risk for cataracts because aging is the main risk factor. However, the risk is greater in people:

  • Who have had diabetes for several years;
  • Have a family history of cataracts;
  • Who have previously undergone trauma or surgical treatment to the eye.
  • Who live in high altitude or near the equator, more exposed to the ultraviolet rays.
  • Who have received radiation treatment, a treatment commonly used against cancer.

Risk factors

  • Taking certain medications can cause cataracts (eg, corticosteroids, long-term). It is necessary to consult a doctor in case of doubt.
  • Exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun increase the risk of developing senile cataracts. The sun’s rays, especially UVB rays, transform the lens proteins.
  • Smoking tobacco damages the proteins of the lens.
  • Alcoholism
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables. Research indicates a link between the occurrence of cataracts and a lack of antioxidant vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C and vitamin E, selenium, beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene.

Basic preventive measures

  1. Do not smoke. Smokers can reduce their risk of senile cataracts by quitting smoking.
  2. Protect your eyes from the sun. Excessive exposure to the sun is known to cause damage to the lens that may accelerate the onset of cataracts. It is therefore important to wear a broad- brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect against UVA and UVB rays. Limiting exposure to microwaves, X-rays and infrared radiation may also slow down cataract formation.
  3. Eat enough fruits and vegetables. The antioxidants they contain help prevent cataracts.
  4. Control your blood sugar if diabetic.
  5. Protect your eyes during screen time and outdoor activity.
  6. Treat an infection during pregnancy. In case of infectious disease (genital herpes, syphilis, etc.), pregnant women should consult their doctor. It is possible to reduce the risk that the infection will affect the newborn.

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