Understanding and Treating Age Related Cataracts

What are cataracts? When my grandfather went under the knife to get one removed, I was able to learn more about them, as well as the surgery involved to remove them (which is less scary and gross than you’d think.)

I was surprised to hear that my grandfather and his doctor (optometrist) had been aware of the existence of the cataract in his left eye for years. I thought that they were kind of like tumors: when you detect them, you get them removed immediately. But that is not the case. Surgery to remove cataracts is not something that doctors rush into, as most people can see quite fine with cataracts in the eyes for years. Cataracts are most often age related, and they usually get worse with time. Once they start to drastically impair somebody’s vision, the doctor will typically recommend surgical removal. In the time just before his surgery, my grandfather proclaimed to be “seeing triple.” Up to that point, he had been wearing special glasses that helped him compensate for the loss of vision due to the cataract. Plus, his right eye is his dominant eye, and remained clear and healthy. Still, it got the point where he perceived light as a glare, and had an impossible time distinguishing certain colors, and the blurred vision affected his other motor skills. The doctor decided that it was time to cut the thing out.

Age related cataracts, which are by far the most common scenario, can develop in different ways. In my grandfather’s case, lumps of protein developed on his lens (the eye’s lens is mainly protein and water.) the protein clumps then affected the amount of light that was able to reach his retina. As the protein amassed more and more material over time, the light reaching his retina decreased accordingly, thus continually impairing his vision. A cataract can also occur through the discoloration of a lens, which is a natural process. The lens, basically clear during youth, will take on a yellowish tinge as time goes on. In some cases, the tinting will be worse than usual, and may take on a brownish-yellow color, which will then cause light to be perceived in the same color. In this scenario, the cataract surgery is almost like a skin peel: a layer of the old tinted lens is removed, clearing up the sight once again.

There are a number of tests that can determine the presence of a cataract. The standard eye chart will determine how well you see, and what distances are the most difficult for your eye to determine. Eyes can also be dilated so that the pupils are widened. The doctor will then be able to determine whether your eye has any nerve damage or other obstructions. The eye can also be numbed so that doctors can measure the pressure inside the eyeball itself (a cataract can cause increased pressure.) If a cataract is detected, and it seems to be affecting your quality of life, surgery is an optician that you can feel okay about. This is actually one of the most common and successful surgeries available, and one that most people will have to undergo at some point in their life (Cataracts affect a huge portion of the population.) A specialist will determine the type of surgery that is best for you. The only real risk of cataract surgery other than bleeding is retinal detachment, which is fairly uncommon. Retinal detachment can cause loss of vision if it isn’t addressed immediately. The eye does not suddenly go blind with retinal detachment. The person may start seeing little flashes or lines that they hadn’t noticed before. It is imperative that the person go see somebody about this immediately, especially if they have undergone recent cataract surgery, or have a history of vision problems.

The surgery itself is painless (or should be.) my grandfather’s lasted about 45 minutes, and anesthesia was not required. He had to wear a patch afterwards. His biggest complaint was some itchiness in his eye area. But other than that, the operation was nothing worse than an inconvenience. And it was 100% successful, drastically improving his sight.

Cataracts are something that most people will have to deal wit when they get older. There are a few things that you can do to help prevent them, such as avoiding sun and wearing UV ray proof sunglasses when you are outside. Smoking also seems to affect cataracts, as do diseases like diabetes. However, you can take all of these measures, and still develop a cataract. Eyes age, as do other parts of the body. But not worry – treatment of them is one of the safest and least painful procedures you can undergo. And the success rate of the surgery is incredibly high.

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