The eye is a very complicated instrument and relies on a complex interaction in order to provide the imagery that we're all used to. Over time, its efficiency can degrade and this may cause the formation of a cataract. What is this and what can be done about it?
What's the Risk?
Most people will develop some form of cataract as they reach their later years. They can affect anyone at any age, but are typically associated with the ageing process.
What's Going on?
The eye has a lens, just like a camera, that helps to focus an image onto the main part of the eye, known as the retina. The retina is able to convert the signal received into nerve impulses which travel along the optic nerve to the brain. It's very important for this lens to be clear in order for the image to be as sharp as possible. However, in somebody suffering from a cataract, the lens becomes cloudy.
How the Lens Works
The lens itself is very sensitive, flexible and made mostly from protein and water. When you are first born, the lens is fully functional and is designed in such a way that the light is allowed to pass through unimpeded and it's able to change its shape so that you can focus on things which are both near and far away.
The issue happens when the protein starts to "gel" together and cause denser patches. Over time, this can develop to such an extent that it causes a sensation similar to a cloud in the middle of the lens. This is what is known as a cataract and it will continue to grow and become more cloudy until it severely affects the ability to see clearly.
People who suffer from diabetes are thought to have a greater risk of developing cataracts and they are certainly associated with the smoking habit. However, it is generally felt that they will develop as the lens starts to wear out with time.
In order to detect whether you have a cataract, the optician or optometrist will judge how well you can see using an eye chart, but will also conduct a dilating exam. In this case, drops will be put into your eye to widen the pupils so that the expert can see what's going on.
What to Do Next
If you do have a cataract, it'll have to be removed when it gets to a certain stage. This is a very commonplace procedure, is done using local anaesthetic and performed on a day case basis at your hospital. The procedure is usually highly effective and you can typically get a great improvement in your vision afterwards.
Getting It Checked
If you think that you may be suffering from early-stage cataract, schedule a visit to your eye doctor for a consultation.