What is cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. Cataract is the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40 and the principal cause of blindness in India and the World.

A cataract may make light from the sun or a lamp seem too bright or glaring. Or you may notice when you drive at night that the oncoming headlights cause more glare than before. Colors may not appear as bright as they once did.

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Symptoms of Cataract

A cataract starts out gradually and at first has little effect on your vision. You may notice that your vision is blurred a little, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass or viewing an impressionist painting.

The type of cataract you have will affect exactly which symptoms you experience and how soon they will occur. Some types of cataracts bring about a temporary improvement in your near vision, called “second sight.”

Unfortunately, the improved vision is short-lived and will disappear as the cataract worsens. On the other hand, other types of cataract may not produce any symptoms until it’s well-developed.

What Causes Cataracts?

The lens inside the eye works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina for clear vision. It also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. The lens is mostly made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract, and over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.

No one knows for sure why the eye’s lens changes as we age, forming cataracts. But researchers worldwide have identified factors that may cause cataracts or are associated with cataract development.

Ageing is the most important factor for developing cataracts. As one cannot stop ageing process, similarly it is impossible to stop or reverse cataract development.

Cataract Treatment

When symptoms begin to appear, you may be able to improve your vision for a while using new glasses, strong bifocals, magnification, appropriate lighting or other visual aids.

Think about surgery when your cataracts have progressed enough to impair your vision and affect your daily life. Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision.

Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision. In fact, it is the most frequently performed surgery in Indian and the world.  Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision, somewhere between 6/6 and 6/12 for distance.

During surgery, the surgeon will remove your clouded lens and in most cases replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL).

What are the types of cataract surgery?

Modern day cataract surgeons use Phacoemulsification as primary method of removing the cataracts. This surgery can be performed via very small incisions, sometimes < 2mm incision called MICS or Micro Incision Cataract Surgery.

Latest technological advancement has been with the use of Femtosecond laser in cataract surgery. Ask your ophthalmologist about types of cataract surgery.

What are the types of intraocular lenses?

Intraocular lenses can be broadly classified into hydrophobic and hydrophilic lenses. Most commonly used are the hydrophobic lenses which have less rates of after cataract formation.

Multifocal lenses can provide good vision for both distance and near but they are not suitable for everybody. It is advised to discuss in detail with the surgeon and formulate best surgical plan.

What is after cataract (Posterior Capsule Opacification)?

In some patients the capsular bag in which the intraocular lens is implanted during cataract surgery becomes opaque leading to decreased vision. The treatment involves clearing visual axis using lasers.