What do you know about Cataract?
Grandpa was only a few meters from the children, approaching them with his innocent smile which looked sinister to the children. They screamed out of fear as they ran towards their dad crying. ‘What is the problem?’ dad asked out of curiosity. ‘We just saw a ghost’ yelled one of the children, before she was done saying this, grandpa was at the door. The children recognizing the ‘ghost’ which they saw outside screamed silence out of the quiet neighbourhood. ‘That is your grandpa dad smiled as he comforted the children yet reaching out for the door to let ‘the ghost’ in. The children had never seen anyone with such a ‘white eye’, talk more of an old man whose smile showed his incomplete dentition in addition. It happened that grandpa had had a cataract on his right eye and it was still unattended to.
What is Cataract?
Have you ever heard that the eye works with same principle of a digital camera? Yes, this is true. In the eye, we have a natural lens - just as we do have in a digital camera – which functions by refracting light rays which come into the eye; this makes it possible for us to see things.
So, if you have a cataract, this means the lens has become cloudy. This could be likened to looking through a foggy car windscreen. Things look hazy, blurred and even less colourful. I am sure you are beginning to imagine how terrible this condition could be. Cataracts cause half of all cases of blindness and 33% of visual impairment worldwide according to the Global Data on Visual Impairments WHO 2012. About 20 million people are blind due to cataracts. Approximately 5% of blindness in the United States and nearly 60% of blindness in parts of Africa and South America are caused by cataract. Blindness from cataracts occurs in about 10 – 40 per 100,000 children in developing countries. (Rao, GN; Khanna, R; Payal, A; The global burden of cataract, January 2011). Cataract becomes more common with age.
What are the causes of cataract?
The mechanism behind this is that there is an accumulation of clumps of broken down protein molecules or yellow-brown pigments in the lens and this reduces transmission of light to the retina at the back of the eye. This may be due to normal eye changes that happen starting at about age 40. This is when the normal proteins start to break down. People over age 60 usually start experiencing some clouding of their lenses. However, vision impairment may not occur till years later.
These are the most common causes:
Aging is the most common cause.
Genetic factor: having parents, brothers, sisters or other family members is a risk factor.
Prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet rays (UV light from the sun)
Medications such corticosteroids increase the risk
Some health conditions as Diabetes mellitus, Wilson’s disease, Hypothyroidism, Congenital syphilis, e.t.c.
Some skin diseases such eczema and atopic dermatitis could cause cataract since the lens and the skin are of same embryological origin
Types of Cataracts
There are 3 common types:
Subcapsular Cataract: occurs at the posterior part of the lens. People with diabetes or those on high doses of steroid medications have greater risk of developing this.
Nuclear Cataract: occurs in the central zone of the lens. These are associated with aging.
Cortical Cataract: seen as a white, wedge-like opacity that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the central part in a spoke-like fashion. This type occurs in the cortex of the lens which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central part also called the nucleus.
Common signs and symptoms
When you start noticing any of the following, you should go see your ophthalmologist. It most times slowly reduces vision but one may notice blurry vision, double vision, normal intensity of light now appears too bright, difficulty seeing at night, need for more light when reading, seeing bright colours as faded or yellowish.
Good news is that there is a cure for this discomforting condition. Initially, upon onset of symptoms you may be able to improve your vision using glasses but progressively it would not help out anymore.
So, think cataract surgery when it comes to this point. This is a very simple surgical procedure, it is done mostly as an outpatient procedure in most developed countries. You do not have to be scared at all.
What the surgeon does is to simply take out the clouded lens and replace it with a clear plastic intraocular lens (IOL).
Can you prevent this?
Although no means of prevention has been scientifically proven, there are various ways that the occurrence could be slowed down.
The use of sunglasses that dampens the effect of ultraviolet light.
Certain nutritional products can help significantly reduce the risk. A 10-year study carried out by some female professionals found that higher dietary intake of vitamin E and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin had proven to reduce the risk of cataract significantly.
Hence foods such as avocado, spinach, kale and other green leafy vegetables as well as fruits rich in antioxidant such as vitamin C. So the next time you need lunch inspiration, a salad containing these would be a great idea!!!
Avoid smoking, a research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows smokers have a greater risk of getting cataract. This can be reduced by about 25% after stopping smoking in the long term.
Never forget to get regular eye exams. A visit to the ophthalmologist or an optometrist in time could be saving venture!
Together we can end cataract!!!
Chimhurumnanya Vincent Jr.