Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 3

By David B. Jacoby; Robert M. Youngson | Go to book overview

Cataracts

Questions and Answers

My doctor says I have to wait for
my cataract to “mature” before it
is removed. What does this mean?

This simply means the cataract
has to develop to such a degree
that surgery is necessary.

A cataract can be removed at
any stage, but it should not be
removed unless vision will
significantly improve after surgery.
At the moment your eyesight has
probably not deteriorated
sufficiently to require surgery.

My uncle had cataracts removed.
Can I avoid getting them?

Don’t worry; they are not
hereditary or contagious.
Cataracts are usually a result of
advancing age, but ultraviolet
light may cause cataracts, so
wear sunglasses on bright days.

I had successful cataract surgery.
Why is my vision still so poor?

The power of the lens implant
may not exactly correct your
vision for distance, and glasses
may be needed. Even if the lens
is correct for distance, you will
still require reading glasses for
sharp near vision. Current lens
implants are of fixed focus.
Surgery may have changed the
shape of your cornea, causing
astigmatism, which can be
corrected by glasses. A more
unfortunate possibility is that you
may have retinal disease such as
macular degeneration.

How can I tell whether someone
has a cataract?

The opacity is in the internal lens
behind the iris. If it is at the back
of the lens, the eye may look
normal, but if the opacity is dense
and involves the front of the lens,
a whitish pupil is seen. A scar from
injury or disease may also cause a
milky film over the eye.

Cataracts are a common condition of the lens of the eye. If left untreated
they can lead to severe visual impairment, but modern surgical techniques
are very effective in restoring good vision
.

The term “cataract” dates from many centuries ago, when the appearance of whiteness was attributed by physicians to a kind of miniature waterfall descending from the brain to the eye. The lens is a minor focusing part of the eye, situated in a capsule immediately behind the pupil; the bulk of the work is done by the cornea, which is itself a fixed-focus lens (see Eyes and Eyesight). A cataract—a white opacity—can form in the lens, dimming vision until only light and dark can be seen. Eventually the cataract reaches a “mature” state and, if not surgically treated, it can give rise to secondary effects that, in some cases, can damage the eye. Such complications are uncommon, however, and it is rare for cataracts to lead to a permanent loss of vision.


Causes

The most common cause of cataracts is old age, in which case the cataracts mostly affect the center of the lens first. Blindness is delayed for many years until eventually the whole lens is affected. Some cataracts are congenital—that is, people are born with them. Within the first few months of human fetal development, the cells of many organs, including the eye, can suffer injury from infections or drugs that can enter the mother’s blood system during pregnancy. The most serious maternal infection of early pregnancy that can cause congenital cataracts is rubella. This can also cause congenital heart disease and other serious misfortunes. All young girls should be protected by rubella vaccination before there is a risk of pregnancy (see Rubella).

Other, less severe, congenital cataracts consist only of a light filming of the eye that resembles powder throughout the substance of the lens. Such cataracts rarely require any treatment at all, and vision is likely to remain good.

Cataracts can be removed by ultrasound. Very small incisions are made in the eye,
and the cataract is washed out
the water bath is shown above.

-326-

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Encyclopedia of Family Health - Vol. 3
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Bronchitis 294
  • Brucellosis 297
  • Bruises 298
  • Bunions 299
  • Burn Center 301
  • Burns 303
  • Burping 306
  • Bursitis 307
  • Calcium 310
  • Cancer 312
  • Capillaries 318
  • Cardiac Massage 320
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome 322
  • Cartilage 324
  • Cataracts 326
  • Celiac Disease 329
  • Cells and Chromosomes 330
  • Cellular Telephones 333
  • Cerebral Palsy 335
  • Cervix and Cervical Smears 337
  • Cesarean Birth 340
  • Chat Room 343
  • Chelation Therapy 345
  • Chest 347
  • Chicken Pox 349
  • Child Abuse 351
  • Child Development 354
  • Chinese Medicine 358
  • Chiropractic 362
  • Cholera 365
  • Cholesterol 366
  • Chorionic Villus Sampling 367
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome 369
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease 370
  • Circulatory System 372
  • Circumcision 374
  • Cirrhosis 375
  • Cleft Palate 376
  • Cloning 377
  • Clubfoot 379
  • Cocaine and Crack 380
  • Cold Sores 382
  • Colon and Colitis 383
  • Colonic Irrigation 384
  • Colonoscopy 386
  • Color Blindness 388
  • Color Therapy 390
  • Colostomy 392
  • Coma 394
  • Common Cold 396
  • Complexes and Compulsions 397
  • Conception 399
  • Congenital Disorders 401
  • Conjunctivitis 403
  • Constipation 404
  • Contact Lenses 406
  • Contraception 407
  • Convalescence 412
  • Convulsions 413
  • Coordination 414
  • Cornea 416
  • Corns 417
  • Coronary Arteries and Thrombosis 419
  • Cosmetics 422
  • Cosmetic Surgery 424
  • Coughing 426
  • Cough Syrup 427
  • Counseling 428
  • Index 431
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