בדיקת עיניים
בדיקת עינייםצילום: freepik

A cataract is a cloudy or opaque area that forms in the lens of the eye partially blocking incoming light and causing impaired quality of vision.

A cataract is a normal phenomenon that occurs frequently in older people, usually between the ages of 60 and 70. It is important to know that cataracts begin with slight cloudiness and continue to develop.

Without treatment (in the form of cataract-removal surgery), the condition may deteriorate to the point of the cloudiness almost completely blocking the light from passing through the lens, causing almost complete blindness (the ability to distinguish between light and shadow remains).

In the past, people who suffered from cataracts had no choice but to come to terms with having to live with a deteriorating quality of vision, almost to the point of blindness at a more or less advanced age. Today there are very effective treatments, in the form of various methods of surgery to remove cataracts. You should know that cataracts usually appear in both eyes, although it is quite possible that the condition of one eye will be worse than the other.

What causes the development of cataracts?

As mentioned, a cataract is a natural process caused by the wear and tear of tissues in the lens of the eye. A familiar phenomenon is that materials that are supposed to be transparent lose their clarity over time. A similar process takes place in the lens of the eye and it becomes cloudy over the years.

The stage in life in which a cataract first appears, as well as the rate of its development from the moment it appears, may vary greatly from person to person and are affected by a variety of factors.

Usually, cataracts are first detected between the ages of 60 and 70, after which they develop slowly to the point where they significantly impair the quality of vision. There are cases where cataracts appear at an earlier age and there are even cases where infants are born with cataracts (congenital cataracts) due to genetic reasons.

Cataracts may appear earlier and develop more quickly as a result of metabolic changes (due to diabetes, for example), due to eye damage, because of the use of drugs (steroids, for example), etc. Extensive exposure to the sun also has the potential to accelerate the onset and deterioration of cataracts.

Symptoms of cataracts

As already mentioned, cataracts are observed as a clouding of the eye’s lens, a kind of white-gray opacity on the lens. The more intense the opacity, the worse the impairment of vision. Initially there will be glare, later the ability to see in the dark will be impaired, vision will become blurred in general, double vision may occur, loss of ability to see colors (images are seen in brown - gray hues), etc.

Since cataracts usually appear in both eyes, the quality of vision will be damaged in both eyes, although it is quite possible that the cataract in one eye will be more severe than in the other eye. In addition, the effects of cataracts may vary from eye to eye (e.g. double vision in only one eye, vision in one eye is much more blurred than in the other, etc.).

Cataract treatment

As long as the cataract is not severe and it does not significantly ruin the person’s quality of life, the condition may be left untreated and it is sufficient to monitor the rate of progression of the clouding of the eye lenses. Cataracts may require the replacement of glasses relatively often (to the point of needing a new pair every few months).

Once you notice that the cataract has caused a significant deterioration of vision the condition can be corrected through a surgical procedure to remove the cataract. There are different types of cataract-removal surgeries, the one that is found to be most appropriate to the circumstances of the case should be chosen.

When the cataract in one eye is much more severe than in the other eye you can decide to undergo surgery on only one eye. Usually, it is necessary to remove cataracts from both eyes, however surgery can be done on one eye and once it is fully recovered (after a few weeks), the other eye will undergo cataract-removal surgery.