Cataract is turbidity of the eye lens, so a person may see blurred. The lens contains proteins and these may clog, making the lens become turbid. The condition is harmless, but can be inconvenient in everyday life. Everyone who gets older, has to deal with cataract. Age-related cataract is a normal aging process.
The turbidity of the lens may have different causes:
- As one gets older, the lens can slowly become turbid.
- It can be congenital.
- Cataract may occur following an accident or an infection of the eye.
- People with diabetes are at higher risk of having cataract.
- Prolonged use of medications, such as prednisone.
In case of cataract, a person can see less sharp remote and nearby. As a result, one can't see television or traffic signs well anymore or one can't read properly. It may also be that someone suffers from blinding light in the evening and at night. Additionally, the glasses strength can change, so new glasses are regularly needed. If one is bothered by the cataract in everyday life, such as at work and at hobbies, it may be necessary to treat the cataract.
To find out whether a person actually has cataract, the ophthalmologist looks at the eyes with a slit lamp during a slit lamp examination. Through a narrow beam of light, the ophthalmologist can examine the front part of the eye. The lens is located there. The ophthalmologist can see in the light whether the lens is turbid and how far the cataract has developed.
The treatment of cataract is an operation. During cataract surgery, the ophthalmologist will make an incision of a few millimeters in the cornea. The turbid lens is removed through this incision and then a new bright artificial lens is put into place. The wound needed for the operation is so small, that it usually need not be sewn up. Cataract surgery takes about 25 minutes.
After surgery, the eye is covered with a cap for protection. The cap should usually only be worn at night from the next day on. In order to stimulate healing and prevent infection, the patient must drip the eyes several times a day during the first three weeks.
The strength of the artificial lens (which replaces the turbid lens) largely determines the glasses strength which remains after surgery. Although the strength of the artificial lens will be determined very carefully, it may be that the patient still needs glasses after surgery. Nor can it be said what glasses strength the patient will need after surgery.
Cataract does not diminish and vision will continue to decline in the long term. However, cataract operations are very successful. Approximately 95% of the patients operated experience improved eyesight after cataract surgery. An eye infection occurs in 1 out of 1000 operations; this can be very serious. Other complications that may occur (macular edema, temporary turbid cornea) are often easy to remedy.
- Cataract can be managed by avoiding exposure to the causers (radiation, ultraviolet light). Wear a good pair of sunglasses with tinted glass in bright sunlight. Pay attention to whether the glasses actually stop the harmful ultraviolet radiation, because not all sunglasses do this.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of having cataract.
- Taking extra vitamin C seems to reduce the risk of having cataract.
- After cataract surgery, it’s important to take it easy. Then the wound can heal properly. Depending on how the wound heals, the doctor gives some advice. The patient should not strain too much, for instance by not lifting. Travel by public transport. Driving is only possible when the patient is able to see well again. And immediately after the operation it's better not to use eye make-up.