Cloudy Eyes: The Cataract Problem

By: James Monahan

People donít generally worry about cataracts until they develop them. But in truth, cataracts are serious business. Ignoring care against such could result in the loss of vision. In the United States, cataract operations are among the most common surgeries performed with over 1.5 million performed every year.

A cataract is any opacity which develops in the crystalline lens of the eye or in its envelope. This impairs sight by blocking the light that goes through them. They may be hard to spot since they are painless and are unaccompanied by inflammation.

Cataracts form for a variety of reasons like long term ultraviolet exposure, secondary effects of diseases such as diabetes, or simply due to advanced age. Cataracts are usually a result of the denaturation of lens proteins.

Genetic factors are often a cause of congenital cataracts and may also play a role in predisposing someone to cataracts. People over 70 often have some cataract formation. Fully half of all people between the ages of 65 and 74 and about 70% of those over 75 have some cataract formation.

This type of cataract is called senile cataract. This is the most common type of cataract around.

Cataracts can also be caused by eye injury or physical trauma. Physical trauma may puncture the lens capsule. Subsequently, the lens become opaque and light cannot pass through the lens anymore.

In the early days cataracts were removed through a technique called couching. Couching involves using a thin needle or stick to remove the clouding in the lens.

Couching was practiced during the Roman times and, surprisingly enough, is still used in some of the underprivileged countries in the world today.

Fortunately, with the advent of modern medicine, better and more effective methods are now employed.

The most common and effective treatment for cataracts is surgery to remove the cloudy lens. Two types of surgery to remove cataracts exist, extra-capsular and intra-capsular surgery. Extra-capsular surgery removes the lens, but leaves the majority of the lens capsule intact.

Intra-capsular surgery removes the entire lens of the eye along with the lens capsule. This, however, is rarely performed in todayís medical practice.

The lens is then replaced with a plastic lens which remains permanently in the eye. Such an implant may be the best treatment for senile cataracts.

Operation for such is not that risky. The operation is performed under a local anesthetic. The patient is usually discharged later the same day. Most patients report an increase in the quality in their vision after operations.

However, early diagnosis is crucial in treating cataracts. If not caught early, cataracts may advance to a stage where even surgery might not be a satisfactory type of treatment.

Doctors assess cataract cases and suggest surgery only when the cataract has reached a stage where it is said to be ripe, or mature. This is when the fluid of the lens is absorbed and the lens is separated from the lens capsule.

There are, however, alternatives to operation. Some doctors recommend the use of special eyeglasses or contact lens. Surgery however, is the last resort, and the only resort available to those suffering from senile cataracts.

Proper eyecare is often neglected by most people. But contrary to this line of thinking, the eyes are a very precious and delicate organ. Proper care for such will reap rewards especially as one ages.

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James Monahan is the owner and Senior Editor of and writes expert articles about cataracts.

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