Cataract remains the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness worldwide, mostly in low and middle-income countries. As of 2010, the World Health Organization (W.H.O) deemed that cataracts were responsible for about 51% of world blindness, which accounted for about 20 million causes of visual impairment. With age being a major predisposing factor for the incidence of cataract, the implications of this condition are bound to multiply even further as the population of individuals aged 60 and above increases further in the year 2020.
Which structure of the eye gets affected when there is cataract?
Cataract forms on the crystalline lens of the eye. The crystalline lens is a transparent high refractive structure within the eye which functions like the lenses of a pair of glasses in ensuring that images and targets are focused sharply onto the retina (the thin light-sensitive structure which lines the insides of the eyes, towards the back; and serves to transmit signals to the brain for interpretation. Hence, the lens plays a major role in the sensation of sharp images at various distances.
What is Cataract?
‘Cataract’ is a condition in which the clear lens within the eye gets cloudy due to the accumulation of opacities (cloudy materials) on, or within its surface. This, in turn, leads to loss of transparency of the crystalline lens. Hence, cataract impairs visual abilities by reducing the transmission of light and other visual signals for an affected eye.
What are its causes?
Age is the major predisposing factor for gradual formation of cataract. However, other causative factors remain. These include;
A.) Uncontrolled, or poorly controlled diabetes mellitus.
B.) Trauma, followed by subsequent inflammation of the eye.
C.) Long-term abusive use of steroid medications.
D.) Birth defects- in children who are born with ‘congenital‘ cataracts.
How do you know when one has a cataract?
The most common symptom associated with cataract is a perceived and persistent blur in vision, usually accompanied by reduced visual clarity. Although the extent of reduction in vision depends largely on the progress of lens opacities. Central lens opacities usually impair vision more than those which emerge from peripheral areas of the crystalline lens.
However, it is always paramount to visit a specialist clinic so as to ensure proper evaluation, diagnosis and treatment.
What are the treatment options for ‘Cataract’?
Presently, there is just one permanent treatment plan for cataract: via various surgical procedures. These usually involve removal of the opaque lens material or a portion of it. The opaque lens which has been removed can then replaced with an appropriate intraocular lens implant, for which powers are obtained prior to surgery.