What is Cataract. Risk factors, Complications, Prevention



Cataract blurs the eye lens.  It alters the ability of the eyes to focus light or well-defined image on the retina. In simple terms, cataract clouds the lens inside the eye, leading to decrease in vision. Since they often develop slowly and without pain, most people’s lifestyle and vision can adversely be affected unnoticed. However, as the clouding progresses, vision impairment sets in and gradually gets worse.

Presently, there is no medical treatment to prevent the formation or progression of cataracts. It most commonly causes blindness. The effective and safe procedures for cataract management and treatment are glasses and surgery .

Aging, trauma and significant exposure to radiation mainly cause cataracts. Globally, cataracts cause more vision problems than any other eye disease. Cataract is visually debilitating and poses high economic and health burden. It involves lost of work hours and money for early surgical intervention for sight recovery. Most cataracts occur  in elderly people, stealing their vision especially  after age 60. Globally, cataracts primarily cause of preventable blindness.  Therefore, report your cataracts status today and sustain your vision tomorrow.


Cataract is the gradual opaque or plaque-like formation in the eye lens. It affects focusing of light or established objects on the retina where visual information is received and analyzed. Visual loss occurs because opacification of the lens obstructs light passage and focusing on the retina. Cataract develops gradually and at maturity, it becomes ripe cataract.  Over time, cataracts cause the deposition of yellowish-brown pigment within the eye lens. This combines with disruption of normal architecture of lens fibers to reduce light transmission,leading to visual disorders.

Cataracts are not usually painful. Cataracts are not hazardous to the sufferer’s health or the general health of the eye(s). Usually cataracts do not  cause any change in appearance of the eyes.  If cataract becomes hyper mature (completely white), it should be removed especially, if there is inflammation or pain.


Added to varieties of factors, biological aging cause about 51% of cataracts- related global blindness in male and female. This aging factor makes the eye lens proteins to denature and degrade over time. Other factors are trauma or eye injury. This promotes swelling, thickening and whitening of the lens fibers which obstructs light from reaching the retina. Radiation from ultraviolet light and X-rays, plus electric and heat injuries from microwaves are among. Other things that promote cataract formation include genetic component abnormalities and syndromes.  Skin diseases such as atopic dermatitis and eczema are involved. Others are cigarette smoking, frequent intake of excessive alcohol and diabetes mellitus. Iodine deficiency and some medications immensely contribute to cataracts formation in the eye(s).


Cataracts patients commonly experience difficulty in appreciating colours and driving especially at night. They have challenges of reading, recognizing faces and coping with glare from bright lights.  Patient’s long-distance vision is more severely attacked at first. Cataracts can occur in either or both eyes. If they develop in both eyes, one will be more severely affected than the other. It cannot spread from one eye to the other. The nature of cataracts in the eye may be partial or complete, stationary or progressive, hard or soft.



The main types of cataracts are age related and congenital (childhood cataracts). As aging sets in, any type or combination of these three secondary types can develop during human life cycle. The three are Nuclear, Cortical and Posterior subcapsular cataracts.

Age related cataracts are the most common and appear later in life. They primarily cause hardening and yellowing of eye lens with time. Age related cataracts occur mostly in those who have smoked or had excessive exposure to ultraviolet light.

Congenital cataracts (childhood cataracts) may be present at birth. They occur when something alters the normal growth of the fetus. Children of mothers who took certain medications or had measles or rubella during pregnancy often suffer cataracts.

Nuclear cataract forms in the centre of the lens. It gradually clouds and turns the nuclear or the central zone of the eye(s) to yellow or brown. Cortical cataract forms white, wedge-shaped opacity around the edges of the eye nucleus. This defect gradually moves in a spoke-like manner to the lens cortex that surrounds the eye nucleus. It occurs when there are changes in the fluid contained in the periphery of the eye lens.   Posterior subcapsular cataract occurs due to fast progressive degeneration of lens fibres behind the eye lens. It begins as a minor sharply demarcated opaque.  Or cloudy area on the posterior or back surface of the eye lens just beneath the lens capsule.PRIMARY COMPLICATIONS OF CATARACTS

The main complications of cataracts are:

  • Falling
  • Depression
  • Blindness


Signs and symptoms of cataracts vary depending on the type of cataract, though there is considerable overlap. The most common are cloudy, blurry or misty vision and colours appearing faded or less clear.  Glare-vision sometimes worsen with light flashes  from headlights, lamps or sunlight.  Halo may appear around bright objects such as car headlights or street lights. Poor night vision occurs. There may be double vision or multiple images in one eye as the cataract gets larger. People may observe frequent prescription changes in eyeglasses or contact lenses. Wearing of glasses may eventually become less effective.  Vision alterations by small spots or dots which blur parts of vision field do occur. Other signs and symptoms of cataract includes worsening vision when lights are dimmed. Eyestrain causing more frequent blinking in an attempt to clear vision, eye inflammation or pain and headache are common.


People should avoid direct and prolonged exposure or contact with injurious radiations.  Avoid personal behaviour such as cigarette smoking, excessive alcohol use and habitual harmful rubbing or pressing of the eyes. Long-term exposure to bright sunlight and use of corticosteroids should be avoided. Other things people should avoid to prevent and control cataract includes trauma that could cause eye inflammation or injury. Avoid exposure to lead -lifetime exposure to lead is hazardous and increases risk of cataracts.People should avoid the use of glasses which are not of most accurate prescription possible.  Avoid the use of Alpha-blockers (which make cataract surgery difficult) without medical advice.

Airline pilots, microwaves users, glass blowers and furnace workers should wear ultraviolet-protecting sunglasses. At age 60 or older, have regular and comprehensive dilated eye examination at least once every two years. Have regular contact with an eye care professional who should be familiar with your medical history. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and unrefined carbohydrates. Good quality fats (avocado, olive oil, omega oils) and either plant proteins or lean animal proteins with antioxidants are good. Install brighter lighting gadgets in your apartment (Halogen lights may help a lot). Wear anti-glare sunglasses or magnifying lenses on sunny days.  Refrain from driving at night.


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