Cataract refers to a condition where the lens loses its transparency and visual acuity is therefore impaired.
Based on the age when it starts affecting the patient, cataract can be classified as congenital, childhood, adolescent, adulthood and old age cataract. Old age cataract is the most common disease requiring operation worldwide.
The symptom of cataract is slowly progressing, painless impairment of visual acuity. Cataract can also cause dazzling in bright light, impairment of contrast vision, and double vision (so-called monocular double vision). Many famous painters have had a “blue period” at a later age: blue tints little by little becoming more and more prominent in their work. This has been explained to be a result of the fact that the artist suffered from cataract. A cataract patient sees the world through a yellow-brown curtain as if she or he was wearing brown sunglasses. An artist with cataract is prone to use stronger tones of blue to make the result appealing to her/his cataract eye.
The most important methods to find cataract are examination of visual acuity, red reflex examination, and examination of the lens itself at an ophthalmologist’s. The ophthalmologist can also assess whether cataract surgery could be beneficial, considering any other eye diseases of the patient.
In early-stage cataract, eyeglasses may improve visual acuity. When eyeglasses no longer help, cataract surgery should be considered. The easiest way of treating cataract today is surgery. At its best, cataract surgery restores vision to very good. If cataract progresses far enough and surgery is not performed, the eye is practically blind. Especially in Russia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, cataract is treated with eye drops that contain cytochrome c (Oftan Catachrom), which nourishes the lens and thus may slow the progression of cataract.
Age is the main risk factor of cataract and in elderly people cataract is a very common disease. Other possible predisposing risk factors are, for example, diabetes, abundant ultraviolet light exposure, and cortisone treatment. Also an eye injury may cause development of cataract. Cataract is more common in women than in men.
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