Cataract

General Illness Information


Common Name:

Cataract

Medical Term: None Specified

Description: Opacity (or clouding) of the lens of the eye. As the opacity gets denser, it interferes with vision. Cataracts can occur in one or both eyes. Cataracts are not cancerous. Most common cause of visual loss (blindness) in adults.

Causes: Common causes include:

  • Aging.
  • Metabolic disorders such as diabetes mellitus, galactosemia (inherited disease of infants in which milk cannot be digested).
  • Congenital- usually obscure. May be caused by drugs such as corticosteroids in first trimester, sulphonamides, etc.
  • Inflammation, such as uveitis (inflammation of the parts of the eyes that make up the iris).
  • Drugs, especially cortisone.
  • Exposure to X-rays, microwaves, and infrared radiation.
  • Intrauterine infections in first trimester (rubella, herpes, mumps).
  • Tumors – melanoma, retinoblastoma.
  • Trauma – concussion, perforating eye injuries, intra-ocular foreign body, heat, electric shock and radiation

Prevention:

  • Effective control of diabetes.
  • Eat a diet high in vitamin A and beta-carotene.
  • Wear effective sunglasses regularly.
  • Eye disorders which may cause cataract formation, such as iritis and uveitis, should receive prompt medical treatment.
  • The use of cortisone drugs or any others that affect the eye lens should be monitored carefully.
  • Women of childbearing age should be vaccinated against German measles if they have not had the disease or been immunized.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Early cataracts usually asymptomatic (no symptoms).
  • Later, cataracts cause blurring of vision -distortion or “ghosting”
  • Problems with visual acuity in bright light and night driving.
  • Becomes progressively worse.
  • Double vision (occasional).
  • Visible opaque-white pupil (only in advanced stages).

Risk Factors

  • Age over 60.
  • Exposure to any causes listed above.

Diagnosis & Treatment

General Measures:

  • An eye examination with ophthalmoscopy confirms the diagnosis of cataracts.
  • Treatment is usually with surgery.
  • Eyeglasses that provide maximum benefit, if vision is not too badly affected.
  • Surgery to remove the lens if vision deteriorates or cataract causes inflammation and pressure in the eye. Many different methods are in use today. Surgery may be done on an inpatient or outpatient basis. Usually one eye is operated on at a time (if cataracts are in both eyes).
  • Surgeon usually implants a lens on the cornea.
  • Vision improves substantially after surgery, though eyeglasses may be required to fine-tune vision.

Medications:

Medications are usually not necessary for this disorder.

Activity:

No restrictions on regular activity. Driving should be avoided if vision is affected.

Diet:

No special diet.

Possible Complications :

  • Loss of vision.
  • Postoperative complications, including rupture of the eye, adhesions, infections and retinal detachment.

Prognosis

Usually curable with surgery. Some cataracts never impair vision enough to require surgery. During the time cataracts are forming, frequent eyeglass changes may help vision.

Other

Nothing specified.

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