They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, which speaks volumes about the sensory service provided by the wonders that are our eyes. When our vision is affected by ailments such as cataracts, so is our entire way of life. Cataracts affect the vision of millions of Canadians each year, so it’s important to understand some key facts about this visual ailment.
- Cataracts have a variety of causes. Cataracts are typically formed as a result of old age, but they can also form as the result of a disease like diabetes (called diabetic retinopathy) or macular degeneration. Additionally, cataracts can form as the result of trauma to the eye or head, or after prolonged use of steroid medications. A cataract is formed when proteins in the lens, the part of the eye that focuses light, degrade or lose functional structure. These proteins, called crystallins, clump together and obstruct the lens from focusing light and also disrupt the structure of the lens. Patients with cataracts report their vision is like seeing something “through a steamy glass”.
- There are a few different types of cataracts. Cataracts can be divided into four classes: nuclear, cortical, posterior subcapsular, and congenital. The first three types all form as a result of aging, disease, or trauma, while congenital cataracts affect the individual from birth or a very young age. A nuclear cataract can affect an individual’s ability to see colour over time and the lens will turn yellow or even brown over time. A cortical cataract will affect how light passes through the lens, causing glare for the affected individual. A posterior subcapsular cataract forms near the back of the lens, interfering with light passing onto the retina. As a result, this type of cataract will affect night vision and even cause a glow or halo-like effect with your vision.
- You can prevent cataracts. A study conducted over ten years concluded that the best way to prevent cataracts was through a combination of diet and taking precautionary measures against UV rays like wearing sunglasses. A diet that included almonds, sunflower seeds, spinach, and other leafy greens contained high amounts of vitamin E and lutein, was proven to help prevent cataracts.
- There is surgery available for cataracts. Cataract surgery is fast and relatively painless, and you won’t need to stay in the hospital after surgery has been performed successfully. Surgery will be performed by an ophthalmologist, who will remove the affected lens from the eye and replace it with a new, artificial lens.
- A new eye drop is being developed to cure cataracts A team of scientists and ophthalmologists have recently developed a steroid-based solution that dissolves cataracts right out of a patient’s eye. This eye drop is still in the experimental phase, but initial results are very promising.
Cataracts are the most common type of eye-related ailment in Canada, affecting more people than all other eye disease combined. By maintaining a healthy diet, wearing protective UV resistant sunglasses, and by making regular trips to your optometrist to check on the health of your eyes, you can prevent the formation of cataracts and other eye-related ailments.