Ipoh Echo’s Eye Health Series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr. S.S. Gill talking to us about Cataract.
The lens in our eyes plays a crucial role in vision. This lens is transparent, crystalline and focuses light on the back of the eye (retina). When this crystalline lens becomes cloudy, it is called a cataract which is most commonly seen in the elderly.
When the lens becomes a cataract, it affects vision in some way or the other, either in the loss of clarity or quality of vision. This is because cataracts block and distort the light that has to pass through the lens, causing visual symptoms.
In Malaysia, cataract is the leading cause of poor vision in patients above the age of 55 years. Cataracts usually occur very gradually although there are instances it may occur rapidly.
Quite often, people may be unaware that they have cataracts because the changes in their vision have been gradual. Cataracts commonly affect both eyes, but it is not uncommon for cataracts to advance more rapidly in one eye.
What are some common causes of cataract?
Contrary to popular belief, cataract is not caused by reading or eye strain. It can be described in terms of the cause as follows:
Aging: This is the commonest cause for cataracts developing. Almost every person will develop a cataract at some stage of life because everyone is constantly aging. Most individuals will have cataracts by the time they reach their seventies.
Secondary cataracts. These occur due to medical conditions, like diabetes, or to exposure to toxic substance and certain drugs like corticosteroids or diuretics, radiation and ultraviolet exposure. Other factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing such cataracts include air pollution, and heavy alcohol consumption.
Traumatic cataracts. These form as a result of an eye injury. At times the injury may have occurred much earlier and you may have even forgotten about it. If you do remember any history of trauma, it should be highlighted to your eye doctor.
Congenital cataracts. Babies are sometimes born with cataracts as a result of an infection, injury, or poor development. They may also develop during childhood.
Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t disturb your eyesight early on. But with time, these cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision. Congenital cataracts have to be treated early to avoid permanent loss of vision that cannot be reversed later on.
In the initial treatment of cataracts in adults, stronger lighting and stronger powered spectacles may be able to help you deal with cataracts. But if the impaired vision interferes with your usual activities, you may need cataract surgery. The good news is that cataract surgery is generally a safe and effective procedure.