What is a cataract?
Cataracts are one of the most common conditions affecting people over the age of 50. A cataract is a clouding of the lens, an important part of the eye that directly affects vision. This causes a gradual loss of vision and can lead to complete blindness if not treated properly.
In young people, the lens is transparent and flexible, able to change shape and focus instantly on the desired object, allowing them to see equally well near and far.
As we age, however, the blood supply to the eye is compromised and the lens, deprived of sufficient nutrients, becomes cloudy and loses its transparency. As a result, less light enters the eye, leading to disease.
Causes of cataract
There are several known causes of cataracts. All cataracts can be divided into two main groups: congenital and acquired.
Congenital cataracts in children usually appear in the first months of life. Since the cause of 20-30% of congenital cataracts is unknown, it is a challenge today to solve this problem and find the causes of cataract development in children.
However, the following causes of cataract can be distinguished:
1. infectious – viral infection of the mother;
2. metabolic – galactosemia, hypoglycemia, diabetes, hypocalcemia, protein deficiency, deficiency of vitamins A, B and C;
3. toxic – drugs, radiation;
4. incompatibility by Rh factor of mother and fetus;
5. intraocular inflammatory processes;
6. intrauterine developmental changes – embryonic persistence.
Acquired cataract occurs in elderly people. Causes of acquired cataract.
1. age-related changes in the structure of the eye associated with metabolic disorders;
2. trauma to the eye (crush, chemical or mechanical damage);
3. Endocrine diseases (diabetes, metabolic disorders, vitamin deficiency);
4. eye diseases such as high myopia, glaucoma, etc;
5. gradual clouding when only the lens capsule is preserved after eye surgery;
6. toxic poisoning;
7. exposure to radiation or ultraviolet rays.
Specialists also pay attention to the following risk factors for the development of cataract:
1. improper diet;
3. lack of timely treatment of chronic diseases (diabetes mellitus, hepatitis, cholecystitis, peptic ulcer);
4. alcohol abuse;
5. previous trauma or inflammatory eye disease;
6. presence of cataract in first degree relatives;
7. prolonged use of certain medications.
Symptoms of cataract
The symptoms of cataract depend on the location, shape and stage of the lens opacity. All patients with this diagnosis experience a gradual but progressive loss of vision. Most people complain of a haze or fog in front of the eyes and a black spot in the visual field that moves with eye movement and remains stationary when the patient’s eye does not move.
Symptoms of cataracts include double vision, halos around objects in bright light, optical distortions, photophobia, dizziness, and increased visual disturbances at night and when driving, writing, reading, sewing, and working with small parts.
As the cataract progresses, vision deteriorates, and the ability to read and recognize faces and surrounding objects is lost. Later, only the ability to distinguish between light and shadow remains. The combination of these cataract symptoms can lead to occupational and social disability. Without proper treatment, the disease often leads to complete blindness.
To prevent the development of this disease, it is necessary to know how to treat cataracts in the early stages.
Stages of cataract development
There are four stages of cataract development:
1. early – opacity of the lens is visible in the periphery and does not affect the visual field;
2. immature – opacity extends to the center. In immature cataract, clouding of the lens always leads to a significant decrease in vision;
3. mature – the entire lens is covered with opacities. Subjective visual acuity decreases, vision falls to the level of light perception;
4. overripe – progression of cataract symptoms with disintegration of lens fibers, liquefaction of lens substance and homogeneous milky color of the lens. This is the most dangerous stage, characterized by the development of serious complications. For example, the rupture of the capsule leads to the release of its contents into the orbit, with undesirable consequences.
The onset of cataracts can be delayed by a healthy lifestyle and keeping the body in good condition for many years, but in some cases, even in healthy people, the body begins to age much earlier.
Whether cataracts can be cured without surgery?
Ophthalmologists usually treat early cataracts with special eye drops. They contain vitamins, minerals, amino acids, ATP, antioxidants and other components that improve the metabolism of the lens tissue. Some preparations contain substances that stimulate proteolysis (breakdown of existing opacities). Discontinuation of treatment is highly undesirable as it usually leads to rapid progression of the cataract.
However, it should be noted that this method is not suitable for treating more than the second stage of cataract.
Surgical treatment of cataract
In most cases, surgical treatment is performed when normal activities become difficult and quality of life is adversely affected. There are also indications for emergency surgery that should be performed as soon as possible.
Non-Emergency Indications for Lens Replacement
- Disruption of capsular integrity due to trauma;
- Overripe or swollen cataract;
- Deviation of the lens from its normal position (dislocation or subluxation);
- A 50% loss of visual acuity is also an indication for surgery. This makes it difficult to function normally.
Implantation of an intraocular lens can restore and improve vision in the presence of concomitant diseases (myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism). The cost of cataract surgery with complications is much higher, so do not delay treatment.
Many people are afraid of the word surgery, but ophthalmic microsurgery is more of a surgical procedure. Nowadays, lens extraction is usually done by phacoemulsification and aspiration. Extracapsular and intracapsular cataract extraction is rarely performed due to its traumatic nature. Phacoemulsification with aspiration is performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia.
Patients can go home almost immediately on the day of surgery. Modern technology allows the lens to be replaced through a small opening, eliminating the need for stitches.
If there is a history of diseases that can cause lens clouding, it is necessary to follow all recommendations for prevention to delay lens clouding.
- Eye protection – special protective devices and sunglasses;
- Include foods with antioxidants in your diet;
- Controlling cholesterol and glucose levels in the body;
- Timely treatment of eye diseases;
- Sight correction;
- Regular use of multivitamins;
- Follow the recommendations of an ophthalmologist;
- Avoid bad habits, especially smoking.
Remember that only an eye doctor can prescribe the correct cataract treatment.