Cataract: Risk Factors, Treatment and Prevention

If your vision has gradually gone from clear to fuzzy or cloudy, it”s very likely cataract has grown in your eyes. This eye disease develops in either or both eyes as part of the aging process, so eventually everyone is at risk for having cataracts.

By some estimates, about 50 percent of people will have cataracts by age 75, and this percentage may jump to 70 percent after the age of 75.

What is a Cataract?
A cataract is an eye disease in which the eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy or opaque, causing a decrease in vision. As we age, protein in the lens, also called crystalline lens, begins to clump together, making cloudy patches on the lens. These cloudy patches reduce the sharpness of the image reaching the retina. Cataracts that make vision blurred or misty can develop in one or both eyes, mostly in older people.

If you have cataracts in your both eyes and the cloudy area in the lens has gotten larger, making your vision duller or blurrier, then surgery may be the only option.

Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is the surgical removal of the cloudy core of eye”s natural lens and implantation of an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). There are two methods to perform the cataract surgery- phacoemulsification and extracapsular surgery.

Phacoemulsification is a small incision cataract surgery in which the surgeon makes a small incision on the side of the cornea to remove the affected part of the lens. Extracapsular surgery, on the other hand, requires a longer incision on the side of the cornea.

Using either method, the surgeon removes the original affected lens and replaces it with an intraocular lens, an artificial lens which is a clear, plastic lens that becomes permanently fixed in your eye.

Risk factors
The risk of cataract increases with age. Other risk factors that increase your risk of developing cataracts include:
• Certain diseases like diabetes;
• A family history of cataracts;
• Extensive exposure to ultraviolet sunlight;
• Smoking or alcohol use;
• Obesity;
• High blood pressure;
• Severe trauma to the eye or intraocular inflammation;
• Previous eye surgery;
• Long-term use of steroid medications, such as oral, topical, or inhaled steroids.

How to reduce the risk of cataracts?
Just because cataracts are common as we age that doesn”t mean they”re inevitable. There are several ways to lower your risk for cataract. These include:

• Having comprehensive eye exam at least once a year;
• Quitting smoking, with the aid of Medications, counseling and other strategies available in the market;
• Wearing sunglasses to block ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, one of the biggest risk factors for cataracts;
• Taking care of your other medical conditions such as diabetes or any other health problem;
• Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to lower your risk for cataracts;
Choosing a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables; Make sure you are getting a lot of vitamins and nutrients required for healthy eye functioning.

Edited by Neelam Goswami on 26-02-2014.