Cataracts seem very scary on the surface of things. Most of us only know that they need to be removed by surgery – an association that brings to mind all kinds of terrifying situations. Well, we at Concept thought it about time to have a proper look at the cataract. Hopefully, we can set your mind at rest.
First off: what is a cataract? This might sound like a simple one, but you’d be surprised by how many people don’t know.
A cataract is caused by a build up of protein in the lens of your eye. This makes it cloudy, blurring your vision. It prevents light from passing clearly through the lens and can lead to some vision loss. As this happens, new lens cells begin to form on the outside of the lens. The old cells are compacted into the centre of the lens, where they form a cataract.
That’s the basics. We should probably mention that there are four different types of cataract:
- Age-related cataracts: These form because of aging. They’re one of the most common forms of cataract.
- Congenital cataracts: This one is a little sad. On occasion, babies are born with cataracts. This can be because of an infection, injury or poor development before they were born. Cataracts can also develop in young children.
- Secondary cataracts: Secondary cataracts are the result of other medical conditions – for example, diabetes. They can also be the result of toxic substances, UV radiation or drug abuse.
- Traumatic cataracts: An injury to the eye can lead to a cataract. This is what we mean by a traumatic cataract.
This looks a little bit more complicated, but don’t worry. You can tell if you might have a cataract quite simply. Whilst they take a while to develop, cataract symptoms are quite straightforward. If you notice you have blurry vision, a change in the way that you see colour, problems with glare or double vision then you may be developing a cataract. The only way to be sure is to have an eye test if you notice these symptoms, and to see your optician once every two years to make sure these problems don’t develop.
If it comes to it and you are diagnosed as having a cataract, don’t despair. The treatment of a cataract isn’t as simple as just sending you away for surgery. In many cases, it will be possible to correct your vision with the use of some spectacles. Your optician will prescribe you what is correct for you. However, if your vision can’t be corrected and your cataracts are interfering with your sight, then you may need surgery.
Cataract surgery sounds scary. It doesn’t need to in our opinion. Over 1.5m cataract surgeries are carried out across the United States every year. More than 90% of the people who undergo this surgery every year have better sight than before their operation. An operation carried out this regularly is a standard procedure, is unlikely to lead to complications and will be done in a professional and safe manner. As most cataract operations are done on an out-patient basis, your optician won’t be performing a cataract surgery on you. They will, however, be happy to talk you through it and give you all the advice you need.
And the future holds amazing things! Earlier this year, the Louisiana State University Agricultural Centre (LSU AgCentre) made an incredible leap in the field of cataract treatment. LSU AgCentre researchers working in Romania have been trying out a new eye drop. Using a state of the art nanoparticle designed to deliver an antioxidant (lutein) to the eye, the research team has succeeded in reducing the size of cataracts in a rat’s eye in a period of under a week. Professor Cristina Sabliov, who heads the LSU research, said that ‘it doesn’t require injections. It’s not invasive. You just put a droplet in each eye.’ Whilst the drug may be a few years off, getting cataracts in the future could be something you only have to see a chemist about!
In the mean time, follow this advice. See you optician every two years. The best thing for you if you get a cataract is early treatment.