|A cataract is a condition that occurs when the Crystalline lens of the eye loses its transparency. Light readily passes through a normally clear lens, producing a sharp image on the retina: when the lens becomes cloudy, light cannot pass through as easily and vision is impaired. Having a cataract is like trying to look through a foggy window.
Cataracts occur most commonly among people age 55 and over. Twenty three percent of those over the age of 75 are affected by cataracts. On a global basis, cataracts account for over one-half of all cases of impaired vision and affect over 20 million people.
Chemical Changes within the protein of the lens cause clouding and yellowish or brown discoloration. While chemical changes seem to be art of the natural aging process, cataracts may also be cause by injury, inherited tendencies, diseases, birth defects, poor nutrition and certain drugs.
There is growing evidence that exposure to sunlight and cigarette smoking may speed cataract development. Avoiding excessive sun exposure and smoking is a sound preventative measure.
A comprehensive eye health examination can detect cataract formation. After diagnosis, regular follow-up care is needed to assure the best possible correction for the level of impairment.
Deciding when to have a cataract removed depends on a number of factors; the extent of clouding, the location of the cataract, the extent to which normal daily activities are impaired. For instance, if reading or driving abilities are impaired, surgery maybe elected sooner than if such imparities have not yet been noticed.
Because only one eye is operated on at a time, the more impaired eye is usually done first. Surgery is often timed so that one eye has adequate vision while the surgical eye heals. When the clouded lens is removed it is replaced with an artificial lens implant known as an intraocular lens implant or IOL.