Diagnosis & Treatment
What are Cataracts?
To understand what a cataract is, you must first know where it is. Inside almost every eye is a lens. The lens is the structure that changes shape when the focal length of the eye is changed during reading or when viewing a close-up target. It is positioned behind the black circle, called the pupil, in more or less the center of each eye. The pupil is where the light entering the eye is focused and directed to the retina, facilitating sight. Your visual axis runs right through the pupil, and also through the lens.
The lens is normally translucent and colorless, allowing light to pass right through it. On occasion, the lens can become clouded, obstructed, or opaque. Any variation from translucent and colorless constitutes the formation of a cataract. Some cataracts are profound, but most are more simple.
Cataracts are the leading cause of preventable blindness in developing countries. In the United States, however, we are very fortunate to have excellent techniques for the management of cataracts.
Generally speaking, cataracts are part of how human beings age. Usually, by the age of 70, patients have had a discussion about cataracts during an exam. Some patients experience changes sooner and some later. Typically, visually significant cataracts are detected, and their development is managed during annual examinations. The decision to have surgery is made as a team between the patient, his/her family, and the doctor.
The most common cause of cataracts is age. Other causes include trauma, oxidative damage, and underlying autoimmune or metabolic disorders.
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