A cataract is a clouding of the clear lens of your eye. This clouding makes it more difficult to see at night, read or drive a car. Cataracts commonly affect distance vision and cause problems with glare. They are not generally painful and don’t usually affect the appearance of the eye.
Getting cataracts is a normal part of getting older. They develop slowly and don’t affect the eyesight until the later stages when the clouding progresses and eventually interferes with vision.
In the early stages, stronger lighting and eyeglasses can help you deal with the vision problems. At some point, if impaired vision jeopardizes your normal lifestyle, an opthamalagist might need surgery. Fortunately, cataract removal is one of the safest, most effective and most common of surgical procedures.
There are three types of cataracts – nuclear, cortical and subcapsular.
- A nuclear cataract occurs in the center of the lens and may appear yellow or brown.
- A cortical cataract is a whitish, wed shaped opacity that appears on the outer edge of the lens.
- A subcapsular cataract starts as a small, opaque area just under the capsule of the lens. This type of cataract may occur in both eyes but tends to be more advanced in one eye than the other.
At first, you may be unaware of any vision loss. Over time, however, as the cataract grows larger, it clouds more of your lens. When significantly less light reaches your retina, your vision becomes impaired.
Symptoms of a cataract include:
- Clouded, blurred or dim vision
- Increasing difficulty with vision at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare and
- Seeing Halos or auras around lights
In terms of lifestyle you may experience:
- the need for brighter light for reading and other activities
- frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription and
- the fading or yellowing of colors
- general eyestrain and the need to blink more often
- double vision in a single eye
A cataract isn’t dangerous to the physical health of your eye unless the cataract becomes completely white, a condition known as an overripe (hypermature) cataract. This can cause inflammation, pain and headache. A hypermature cataract is very rare and requires surgical removal.
Why Do Cataracts Happen?
As you age the lenses in your eyes become less flexible, less transparent and thicker. The lens is made mostly of water and protein fibers. With aging, the composition of the lens undergoes changes and the protein fibers in the eye tissue break down.
Free radicals from smoking and exposure to ultraviolet light may accelerate the visual degeneration caused by cataracts.
Some people are born with cataracts or develop them during childhood. Such cataracts may be the result of the mother having contracted German measles (rubella) during pregnancy.
Care and Treatment
The only effective treatment for a cataract is surgery to remove the clouded lens, which usually includes replacing the lens with a clear lens implant. Sometimes cataracts are removed without reinserting implant lenses. In such cases, vision can be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Cataracts can’t be cured with medications, dietary supplements, exercise or optical devices. In the early stages of a cataract when symptoms are mild, a good understanding of the condition and a willingness to adjust your lifestyle can help. Some self-care approaches, such as using a magnifying glass to read or improving the lighting in your home, may help you deal with the effects of having a cataract. It is also a good idea to quit smoking
The prognosis for cataracts is good as long as you have surgery to correct the situation. Otherwise blindness is the eventual result.
Our integrated practice at the Pinewood Natural Health Center has an interest and focus on anti-aging therapies, weight loss, allergy testing, therapeutic massage, homeopathic remedies, herbal remedies, acupuncture and NAET (allergy testing.) Feel free to contact us online. You can also call us at our Toronto Clinic at (416) 556-8100 or at the Pickering Clinic (905) 427-0057.