As we continue to age, it is natural that most of our sense organs will not be as sharp and great as they were when we were younger. Probably, the sense organ that becomes noticeably waned first is the eyes. Our eyes start to lose its 20/20 vision, worst, we become prone to cataracts – the most leading cause of vision loss in the world.

Cataracts are eye conditions that are very common for older people especially for those ranging 40 years old and above. This condition is characterized by the clouding of the eyes’ natural lenses. To simply put it, the natural lenses of our eye hardens and turns yellowish as protein builds up in the eye, thus, results in a cloudy and blurry vision. The cloud-like formation in the eye is called cataracts.  It blocks the light from properly passing through the eye lenses causing to gradually lose eyesight. Aside as an effect of getting old, it is also brought about by different risk factors, such as:

  • Congenital – some babies are born with cataracts while some develop it at childhood. This is caused by infections or poor development in the womb.
  • Side of effect of other condition – people with diabetes are prone to develop cataracts
  • Side effect of prescription drugs – people taking in medicines like diuretics, corticosteroids, and other medications that help reduce cholesterol
  • Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation
  • Traumatic eye injury
  • Lifestyle – smoking and drinking too much alcohol can cause cataracts. Obesity may also lead to the condition.

Types and Symptoms

Cataract illustration diagram

Cataracts form and affect the vision in progression. The person who has it does not automatically lose sight but notices gradual changes in eyesight. The earlier the diagnosis, the better it can be treated.  There are three types of cataracts and each type is characterized by which part of the eye they affect, but almost have the same symptoms.

Type of Cataract Description Symptoms
Subcapsular Cataract Occurs at the back of the lens; type of cataract that people with diabetes and those taking high doses of steroid medication develop
  • Cloudy vision – seeing fuzzy spots; often the most noticeable
  • Difficulty seeing or driving at night – a person with cataract will have a dimmer or darker vision making it difficult to see at night
  • Seeing blurry lines that affects vision
  • Seeing glare and halos from the sun or from artificial light – light that passes through the lens is diffracted if cataracts are present
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Seeing colours as faded
  • Double vision in the affected eye
Nuclear Cataract Forms at the nucleus or at the centre of the lens; type of cataract that develops with ageing
Cortical Cataract Starts to form at the peripheral part of the lens and gradually extends to the centre; they are wedge-shaped

Usually, cataracts only affect one (1) eye, but it is also possible that both eyes can have cataracts simultaneously. Take note, however, a person can only have one type of cataract per eye and there is no way that an affected eye can spread the cataract to the other way. Cataracts are not contagious.

Diagnosis

Comprehensive eye examination

If any of the symptoms are experienced, the best next step is to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor or ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye examination. This examination will include a chart test to determine your vision at different distances and tonometry to measure the pressure in your eye. The doctor may also dilate your pupil to make a thorough check up on the optic nerves and retina for any damage.

Delay Cataracts Progression

Cataracts that are already severe can be treated with surgery, but this option is only given to those who have had the diagnosis at the last stage of the condition when vision is almost already lost. Good thing, cataracts usually start small and affect vision gradually, if detected early, the damage is not yet too severe and most vision may still be improved. Cataracts are not reversible; progression can only be slowed and delayed. If diagnosed with cataracts, there are many ways on how to delay its development and progression.

  • Lifestyle Change – the first step in delaying cataracts progression is determining the lifestyle that may be a risk factor for cataracts. Some lifestyle that needs modification are the following:
    • Eating a healthy eye diet – start eating food rich in Vitamin C and E, as studies show that antioxidants contained in them aid prevent or delay cataracts. These include citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and cold water fishes. Also, avoid eating sugary food, eliminate fried or processed, and reduce sodium and carbohydrates intake.
    • Quit smoking and avoid drinking too much alcohol – this change in lifestyle does not only help in decelerating the progress of cataracts but improves the overall health
  • Wear shades, sunglasses, or a brimmed hat – these are not just fashion statements but they protect your eyes from overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. UV can cause changes in the eyes that may eventually progress to cataracts.
  • Change Prescription Drugs – some medications may speed up cataracts progression. If taking such medications, consult with your doctor about cataracts and ask for any possible alternatives. However, do not change prescription drugs without consulting your doctor first.
  • Get a regular eye exam (especially older people) – as always mentioned, early detection can lead to better chances of improvement. If already diagnosed, regular monitoring of the cataracts progress is very important to keep yourself in check and updated and also to determine if the methods you are doing to slow down its progression are working. Getting a regular eye exam will allow your eye doctor to advise you with the most suitable method to slow down cataract progression.

We cannot stop time, therefore, everyone will get old, wrinkly, and our sense organs will naturally deteriorate. However, it should not stop us from taking an extra mile in taking care of ourselves, especially our eyes as it is a very important part of our everyday life.

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