Monday, November 16th, 2009

When Vision Clouds-Cataracts

cataracts_x220A cataract is a painless, cloudy area in the lens of the eye that blocks the passage of light to the retina. Looking through a cloudy lens is like trying to see through a frosty or fogged-up window. The lens works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina at the back of the eye. Clouded vision can make it more difficult to read, drive a car –especially at night or see the expression on a friend’s face.

Did you know that ‘cataracts’ was derived from the Latin word ca-ta-rac-ta and the Greek word ka-ta-rak-tes? Both words were used to describe rapidly running water or waterfall. They were then used metaphorically to describe the clouding that develops in the eye’s lens.

Estimates say that 80% of blindness cases in India start off with the cataract disease.


Usually a cataract starts out small, and at first has little effect on your vision. You may notice that your vision is blurred a little, like looking through a cloudy piece of glass or viewing an impressionist painting. Or you may notice when you drive at night that the oncoming headlights cause more glare than before.

  • You may have cloudy, fuzzy, or foggy vision.
  • Problems with light, including headlights that seem too bright, glare from lamps or bright sunlight
  • You may need frequent changes to your eyeglasses or contact lens prescription.
  • Difficulty in reading
  • Faded colors
  • Poor night vision
  • Double or multiple vision


No one knows for sure why the eye’s lens changes as we age, forming cataracts. A 2005 study conducted in Iceland suggests that airline pilots have a higher risk of developing nuclear cataract than non-pilots, and that the cause may be exposure to cosmic radiation. A similar theory suggests that astronauts, too, are at risk from cosmic radiation. Other reasons are–

  • Excessive exposure to UV light (sunlight)
  • Ageing.
  • Family history
  • Medical problems, such as diabetes
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Air pollution
  • Injury to the eye


Surgery is the only way a cataract can be removed. Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision. Typically two things happen during surgery–

  • The cloudy natural lens is removed from the eye.
  • A clear artificial lens is implanted.
  • Before surgery the eye specialist measures the size and shape of the patient’s eye to determine the proper power of the lens implant. The measurements are made with a pain less ultrasound test. Cataract surgery is basically an outpatient procedure that takes less than an hour. Most people remain awake and need only a local anesthesia.


During at least the first week after surgery, it is essential to avoid

  • Strenuous activity and heavy lifting
  • Rubbing or pressing on your eye.
  • Be careful of water that might splash into your eye and cause infection


Some eye care practitioners believe that a diet high in antioxidants such as beta-carotene (vitamin A), selenium and vitamins C and E, may prevent cataract development.

  • Wear a hat or sunglasses when you are in the sun.
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcoholic drinks.
  • Keep diabetes under control.
  • Keep your eyeglasses or contact lens prescription up to date.
  • Make sure you have plenty of lighting at your home.

Dr.Gaurav Sood, Consultant, Eye – Q Super Speciality Eye Hospitals

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Category: Eye Care / Seniors
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