Cataracts: Causes, Symptoms, And Remedies
A cataract is a condition where the transparent eye lens becomes clouded. Thus, the vision becomes foggy, like looking through a frosty window. Cataracts develop over time and are most common in senior citizens. However, certain types of cataracts can affect kids too.
Causes of cataracts
The eye lens is made of protein, and when the protein gets clumped together, it causes cataracts. After 40, the protein naturally breaks down, causing an eye cataract, a natural change. However, certain elements can speed up the process like,
- Smoking and drinking
- Exposure to prolonged sunlight without sunglasses
- Serious eye injury
- Eye surgeries to treat eye conditions like glaucoma
- Prolonged use of steroids (eye drops)
- Radiation treatment
- High blood pressure
Cataract and family history
There are a few studies that prove a cataract to be hereditary. Congenital cataracts (which occur in infants) are also due to genetic reasons. Moreover, the child might develop a congenital cataract if a pregnant mother gets infected by chicken pox, measles, flu, herpes, syphilis, rubella, or cytomegalovirus.
There are no medicines or procedures to prevent cataracts or slow down its progress. However, there are a few tips that could help to reduce the risk.
- Regular examinations to identify eye problems or even an early-stage cataract. In most cases, patients realise the presence of a cataract only when their vision gets impaired.
- Manage other health problems like blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and more to reduce the risk.
- Choose a healthy and balanced diet with more antioxidants. However, antioxidant supplements or pills have no proof for helping in the prevention of cataract problems.
- Sun’s UV rays can increase the risk of eye cloudiness; thus, wear reputed UV-protection sunglasses.
- Avoid smoking and drinking.
Home remedies to prevent cataracts
Although extensive studies do not commonly prove these, doctors recommend these home remedies to prevent cataracts to some extent.
- Vitamin C and E can help in the prevention of cataract formations. Good sources of Vitamin C are peppers, tomatoes, citrus fruits, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cantaloupe, and more. Vitamin E comes from vegetable oils, green vegetables, and more.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin vitamins also help prevent cataracts. These are common in eggs and green vegetables.
- Green tea has EGCG, which helps in reducing the speed of eye deterioration. This remedy is proven by a paper published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal.
- According to a study, consumption of carotene and Vit A can reduce the risk of cataracts in women. Spinach consumption was proven to reduce the chance too. There was a 45% risk reduction in women who took Vit C supplements for a decade or more.
- A study published in the Journal of Acute Medicine proved that using Aloe Vera gel can reduce the onset of cataracts by ten years.
The most predominant symptom of a cataract is eye cloudiness. Beyond that, you can find other symptoms like
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Sensitive to glare and light – even normal light would look too bright
- Seeing objects in a yellowish tint or halo around lights
- Eye pain
- Frequent need to change contacts or glasses to a stronger power
- Diplopia, which means you might see multiple images of a single object
Diagnosing and treatment of cataracts
In most cases, people only identify an eye cataract when they have severe symptoms like cloudy vision, double vision, etc. Then, an ophthalmologist will perform an eye check for eye pressure, optic nerve, and light sensitivity check to diagnose.
The most common and effective treatment is cataract eye surgery. There are several types of cataract surgeries.
- Extracapsular surgery – in this method, the doctor removes the cloudy areas of the lens and replaces them with an artificial lens.
- Phacoemulsification – in this method, using sound waves, the doctor would break your natural lens and replace it with an artificial one.
- Intracapsular surgery is standard in advanced cataract patients, wherein the doctor makes a large incision and removes the entire lens.
In most cases, the surgery is a complete success. However, in sporadic cases, there is a chance for the eye part behind the artificial lens to get cloudy. In such cases, doctors can rectify it with a LASER surgery. Cataract surgeries are relatively risk-free and have a high success rate. There is a 1% chance of retinal detachment, infection, and bleeding. However, in most cases, it is usually just a 6-hour trip to the hospital nowadays (few exceptions are also there).
However, people prefer to delay the surgery due to the cataract eye surgery cost and the three-month postoperative care, which might be disruptive to someone’s career or personal life.
Almost all the doctors would recommend surgery as it is the only treatment available for an eye cataract. However, if you insist on avoiding surgery, the doctors might prescribe new and stronger powered eyeglasses with anti-glare features, magnifying lenses for reading, and so on. However, the progress of cataracts is inevitable.
Who cannot have cataract surgery?
Ophthalmologists would not recommend surgery if you fall under the following conditions.
- The presence of additional eye/health problems that leads to surgery complications and failure
- Patients with detached retinas and cataracts might not find the surgery effective.
Natural treatment of cataracts
Several home remedies and natural medicines have proven to prevent cataracts. However, there is no concrete proof of curing. You can delay the onset or reduce the associated symptoms, but progress is inevitable.
Moreover, it is crucial to choose high-quality natural medicines. Some natural medications might not be govt-approved or adequately tested, which might cause serious side effects. Although they are natural items, they are harsh to use straight on your eyes. In addition, it might lead to trauma, aggravating the situation already at hand.
Several cataract eye drops and vitamin supplement capsules are marketed as a cure for early-stage cataracts. Talk to your doctor in detail before consuming them.
What if I leave it untreated?
In the early stages, you can switch to high-power glasses and live your life without disturbance. However, over time, your vision would get impaired, leading to double vision, glare, eye pain, headaches, and deteriorating night vision. Moreover, leaving it untreated will lead to hyper-mature conditions, completely blocking your vision and making it harder to remove or treat.
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