A 'cataract' is the clouding of the eye that can result in impaired vision as well as the altered appearance of the eye. This cataract occurs in the 'crystalline lens' of the eye, and this means that it blocks the entry of light into the eye and particularly around the center. This can end up leaving patients with some peripheral vision, but gradually deteriorating vision in the center of their eye.
Often at the beginning of a case of cataracts, the power of the lens might increase to compensate and this can result in near sightedness and the loss of the perception of blue colors. Later on this progresses to cause more complete vision loss and ultimately blindness. In most cases this affects both eyes, though there are cases where it ill-effect just the one eye at a time.
Any things can cause the formation of cataracts, including too much exposure to ultraviolet light, diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, old age and the denaturation of protein on the lens. Often there is a genetic factor and it is not uncommon for it to be passed between family members. In some cases they might be the result of eye injury or other trauma.
There are also varying different forms of cataracts such as nuclear or cortical, and various kinds of classification including partial and complete, stationary and progressive, and hard and soft variations.
Treatment for cataracts is often surgical, meaning that they are removed using an incision. While this is a relatively common procedure, as any form of surgery will cause some risk, it is advisable to wait until they are progressed.
The outcome of treatment is usually good, and in some cases patients experience complete and permanent recovery. However there is variation between outcomes affected by various factors. The type of cataract will of course affect how likely surgery is to be effective, and also the kind of surgery likely to be used. There are two main forms of surgery known as Extracapsular Cataract Extraction and Intracapsular Cataract Extraction. This refers to whether the lens capsule is removed or not – in ICCE it is, and in ECCE it is not. ICCE is relatively uncommon. All patients should undergo a thorough examination prior to cataract surgery in order to ascertain whether they are suitable and what the best form of surgery is for them. It is also possible in some cases that the patient will be found not to be fit for any form of cataract surgery in which case it will not be performed.
Normally surgery will be performed under local anaesthetic and in most cases the patients can return home that day. In some cases complications can occur such as retinal detachment or endophthalmitis – though these are the exceptions and not the rule. Alternatives include laser treatment and ultrasound which can remove the cataracts with no need for an actual surgical incision with tools. Complication are more likely where other existing eye pathologies exist – which unfortunately is relatively common.
It is also possible to help improve your chances of a full recovery yourself. Make sure that you follow the advice of your doctors post-op and that you treat the area carefully.
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We are lucky that there has been a great improvement in cataract surgery in our time. Now there is so much better quality equipment available to cataract surgeons to work with.
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