Many people think that a cataract is some kind of growth or disease that gradually starts to steal your sight. The reality is that a cataract is simply the clouding of the lens that occurs usually as a person ages, but can happen at any stage during a person’s life. In some rare cases it can be as a result of a trauma to the eye. The lens of the eye is made up of tissue, and just as your skin wrinkles and your hair turns grey as you age, the iris can also “age”. When it ages it becomes hardened and cloudy and this can effect a person’s sight. Cataracts are serious in that they can hamper your vision, but they are not serious in the way that most illnesses or disease can be if left untreated.
Because cataracts are a result of the aging of the lens of the eye, it is usually older people who are affected by them. They are slow to grow and are usually present in both eyes if they are present at all. One will usually develop faster than the other. In many cases the sight in one eye is far better or worse than the sight in the other. They do develop faster too if a person undergoes a trauma to the eye such as a hard knock or fall that impacts on the eye. Research also suggests that various lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, illness such as diabetes or the use of some medications may also result in faster developing cataracts or even the development of cataracts. It is extremely rare for cataracts to be present from birth, although this has been known in the past.
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Although cataracts are painless, they are frustrating because they affect your vision. Day to day activities such as reading, writing and driving can become difficult. Other changes in vision can occur aside from hazy vision. Dull colour sight is another symptom as is excessive light from the sun or even headlights of a car. Double vision can occur too. Wearing glasses can help with some of the sight problems to start with, but eventually as the development continues it may be appropriate to seek treatment to remove the cataracts altogether.
The good news about cataracts is that they can be completely cured through laser eye surgery. During surgery the lens of the eye is removed and an artificial one is inserted in its place. The results are instantaneous and the patient’s sight returns to how it was before the first trace of a cataract was present.
When should you remove a cataract? This is common question asked in relation to this condition. There is no hard and fast answer to it. Some people may have cataracts that don’t look particularly troublesome but in fact seriously hamper their vision. Others may have cataracts that look advanced to an opthalmologist or optician but in fact their sight is barely affected. When the problems of the cataract begin to interfere with your everyday life, that is when you should think about have them removed. If reading a book becomes too difficult of you can’t read the newspaper, talk to your local doctor or optician to get the ball rolling.
If you have a cataract in one or both of your eyes then it may be a good idea to seek medical attention in order to discuss your options. Lasek surgery or refractive eye surgery are two options available that may or may not be required, depending on underlying eye conditions. If there is little problem with your sight then you may wish to wait before undergoing surgery, but this is down to personal choice. The first step is to talk to your local eye doctor or even GP to talk the possibilities through.
Kathryn Dawson writes articles for Immaculate about common eye surgeries in the UK such as cataract surgery and Lasek. Refractive eye surgery is also available for those who want to completely remove dependence on glasses or contact lenses.