Cataracts are changes in lens of the eye. Often characterized by clouding or blurring of this lens, this ailment can cause vision impairment in one or both eyes. About 60% of people over the age of 60 suffer from cataracts. Changes in vision are often gradual and can be mistaken for the natural loss of vision associated with age. This can delay cataract treatment, therefore regular eye exams are needed for diagnosis.
Eye care providers will use a variety of tests to diagnose cataracts. Tests may include visual acuity, refraction, and pupil dilation. Direct examination of the lens, which sits behind the iris, or colored part of the eye, will allow the doctor to see the cataract.
The most common form of cataract treatment is surgery. Eye care providers often use surgery to remove and replace the affected lens. Three types of cataract surgery are phacoemulsification, extracapsular surgery, and intracapsular surgery.
During phacoemulsification, the surgeon will make a small incision in the surface of the eye. The lens is dissolved with ultrasonic vibrations and suctioned out through the incision. An artificial lens is placed inside the capsular bag where the affected lens was located.
Extracapsular surgery is reserved for patients who need advanced cataract treatment. A larger incision is made in the surface of the eye and the lens is removed without being dissolved. The artificial lens is placed inside the eye through the same hole.
Intracapsular surgery is reserved for patients with extreme eye trauma. A large incision is used to remove both the lens and capsular bag that holds the lens. The new implant is placed on top of the iris instead of in the location of the affected lens.
Artificial implants used in cataract treatments are monofocal, toric, and multifocal. Monofocal implants have the same visual strength on all parts of the lens. The toric lens has stronger power on one section of the lens. The multifocal implants will have various areas of vision correction.
The monofocal implant is the most common cataract treatment. Glasses may be needed to correct astigmatism or future loss of vision due to age. Astigmatism is the elongation of the cornea which can cause vision distortion.
Alternative therapies for cataract treatment are becoming more popular for patients with mild cataracts. Treatments can include herbs, vitamins, and chemical eye drops. Common herbal remedies are bilberry, catnip, and N-Acetyl Carnosine. Some foods are also believed to have positive effects on vision and prevention of cataracts. Foods high in vitamin A, which is essential for overall eye health, are carrots, onions, and Brazil nuts.