Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
A cataract is a clouding on the lens of the eye that interferes with vision.
What is going on in the body?
The natural lens of the eye is located behind the pupil and iris. It should be clear. The lens refracts, or bends, light rays coming into the eye. This causes the light rays to focus on the retina. Any clouding of the lens will interfere with normal vision. Clouding occurs when proteins in the lens change and group together. These changes are part of normal aging.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
Most cataracts develop during the normal course of aging. Proteins in the lens change and group together. Over time, the lens becomes firmer or more opaque. Infants and children can have cataracts, although this is rare. Following are some of the other causes of cataracts:
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?
As a cataract develops, the person’s vision changes slowly. Common symptoms include the following:
As a cataract worsens, individuals may have trouble reading. There may be frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions.
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the condition diagnosed?
Diagnosis of cataracts begins with a medical history and physical exam. The healthcare provider can use a slit lamp to examine the eye. When the pupil is dilated, the provider can see any cloudiness in the lens.
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the condition?
Cataracts are part of the normal aging process and usually cannot be prevented. A healthy lifestyle may delay the onset of cataracts. The following recommendations are part of a healthy lifestyle.
What are the long-term effects of the condition?
If left untreated, cataracts become gradually more opaque with time.
What are the risks to others?
Cataracts are not contagious and pose no risk to others.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the condition?
When cataracts first start to form, vision can be improved without surgery. Following are some steps to improve vision at that stage:
When vision interferes with everyday activities, the healthcare provider may recommend surgery for cataract removal. The surgeon removes the cloudy lens. It is then replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular implant. The surgery is usually done in a same-day surgery setting. It usually takes less than 30 minutes.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Some people have increased light sensitivity after cataract removal. Others need to use their glasses more. Glaucoma or retinal detachment are rare complications of cataract surgery. Surgery may also cause bleeding, infection, or allergic reaction to anesthesia.
What happens after treatment for the condition?
Surgical treatment for cataracts usually results in excellent vision. If the individual has other eye problems, these may need further treatment.
How is the condition monitored?
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.
Article type: xmedgeneral