Getting Rid of Eye Cataracts

What are Cataracts?

A cataract is a vision disorder when the cornea develops progressive opacity or clouding resulting in partial to complete obstruction of light and eventual blindness if left untreated.  The condition is generally age related and usually affects both eyes though one is almost always impacted earlier than the other eye. The term comes form the Latin word catarata which means waterfall where the water runs down to turn white which may have been metaphorically adapted to describe the whitish ocular opacities in the condition. 


There are several reasons why cataracts develop. 

  • In general, advancing age triggers its gradual development and is often called senile cataracts when clarity of the corneal lens diminishes progressively. The main culprit in cataract formation is the denaturation of protein in the lens. These proteins maintain the clarity of lens, but over the years, their chemical structures get altered ultimately resulting in a gradual clouding of the lens they are meant to clarify. 
  • But young folks are also known to develop them. Long term exposure to ultraviolet light and radiation are known to cause the condition. A recent study conducted among pilots of Icelandair has pointed to a higher incidence of the condition, three times more for airline pilots than those in other jobs. This can be attributed to constant exposure to aerial radiation from space.  In addition, exposures to infrared radiation such as glassblowers and who suffer from exfoliation syndrome also have higher risks to developing cataracts early.  Exposure to microwave radiation can also increase the risk to getting cataracts.
  • Secondary cataracts can also appear in patients with diabetes and hypertension.
  • Genetic predisposition can cause the condition to happen at an early age and congenital or infantile cataracts can occur in toddlers. They require immediate surgical correction in order to ensure normal visual development in the early years of the child.
  • Drugs like corticosteroids and Seroquel are known to induce cataract formation in patients using these drugs to medicate long term illnesses.
  • Traumatic cataracts can develop with blunt trauma to the eye, a penetrating trauma that causes leakage of lens material. In the latter case, emergency surgery is often required to minimize damage by extracting the lens the leaked matter.

Signs and Symptoms

Cataracts develop gradually and are not painful and many people will not know they are developing one until tested for it in a routine medical check-up or start to notice some impairment to visual acuity. Once you start to notice changes to your vision, you could have had years of it which commonly starts at around age 40.  As the cataract becomes more opaque, clear vision is impaired. Contrast sensitivity also gets progressively diminished as shadows, colors and details get less vivid.  Cataracts scatter light and this can cause veiling glare on objects. A halo will often appear around street lights at night. Symptoms of the condition are almost identical with those of ocular citrosis.

Dealing with Cataracts

During the first signs of cataract development, simply using prescription glasses, a magnifying glass when reading, or increased lighting when doing visually demanding tasks such as reading or sewing, can help or compensate for your diminishing visual acuity.  There is no known medication to directly treat the condition.  But regular intake of antioxidants like Vitamins A, C and E provides theoretical treatment. The antioxidant N-acetylcamosine has been proven to treat cataracts under randomly controlled clinical tests as well as act as a preventive medication.  The antioxidant is also proposed to treat other ocular disorders triggered by oxidative stress like glaucoma and retinal degeneration.

But eventually, some drastic medical intervention such as surgery will present itself as all these alleviating options start to lose effectiveness.  Cataract surgery can be done at any stage in its development but are often resorted to at the last possible moment.  There are two surgery types that require a capsotomy or incision on the capsule of the cloudy lens to take out the cataract material.

  • The most common is Extracapsular Cataract Extraction (ECCE) using phacoemulsification process where the clouded lens material is dissolved using a thin ultrasound probe and suctioned off through the same instrument.  An artificial plastic intraocular lens is then placed permanently in the capsular lens bag that the suctioned cataract material had occupied.
  • The other is Intra-capsular Cataract Extraction (ICCE) which involves the removal of the entire cataractous lens and gets a permanent intraocular lens implant. The procedure, however, is rarely done in modern cataract surgery. 

Cataract surgery is an outpatient clinical procedure that required only a local anesthetic. Patients can choose between traditional monofocal intraocular lenses or more expensive multifocal ones which are flexible enough to be controlled by the eye muscles to lessen their dependence on prescription glasses.

Additional Information on Cataract