CATARACT is one of the most common causes of vision loss in people over the age of 40 years and is the principle cause of blindness in the world. Cataract is an eye condition WHEN there is clouding in the eyes natural lens situated behind the iris and pupil as seen from the front.
There are more cases of cataracts worldwide then there are glaucoma, macula degeneration, diabetes retinopathy combined, the Prevent Blindness America said.
Cataracts can be present at birth when it is known as congenital cataracts. Animals also get cataracts.
Symptoms and signs
A cataract starts out small and at first has little effect on the vision. The person affected has blurred vision - like looking through smoke or a cloudy piece of glass.
A cataract may make light from the sun or other sources appear too bright or glaring or what is known as photophobia. People with this eye condition may notice that oncoming headlights, while driving at night, cause more glare than before.
Colours may not appear as bright as they once did. When a nuclear cataract first develops, it can bring about a temporary improvement in near vision known as second sight.
Unfortunately, the improved vision is short lived and will disappear as the cataract advances. On the other hand, a subcapsular cataract may not produce any symptoms until it's well developed.
What causes cataract?
The lens inside the eye works much like a camera lens focusing light onto the retina. It adjusts the eyes focus, letting us see things clearly both far away and up close.
The lens is mostly made up of protein and water. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and allows light to pass through it. But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens.
This is a cataract and overtime, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens making it harder to see. No one knows for sure why the eyes lens changes as we age, forming cataracts.
Many studies suggest that exposure to ultraviolet light is associated with cataract development, recommending the use of sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat to reduce exposure.
Other types of radiation may also cause cataract. People with diabetes are at risk of developing cataract and at a younger age too. Users of steroid, diuretics and major tranquillisers are at risk as well.
Some eye care practitioners believe that a diet high in antioxidants such as carotene or Vitamin A, selenium and Vitamin C and E may forestall cataract development. Excessive salt intake may increase the risk along with cigarette smoke, air pollution, lead and heavy alcohol consumption.
There is a strong correlation between cataract risk and diet type. Risk is greatest for those who consume meat in excess of 3.5 ounces a day. The risk decreased in the order of moderate meat eaters, low meat eaters, fish eaters, vegetarian and vegans.
Vegans had a 40 per cent lower risk compared to meat eaters. Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision being one of the most frequently performed surgeries in ophthalmology. Nine out of 10 people who have had cataract surgery gain good vision.