Cataracts in the eye result from a loss of transparency in the eye’s natural lens, the crystalline lens, which becomes thicker and less flexible. The patient notes a decrease in visual acuity which cannot be corrected with spectacles, only surgery. Due to this opacity, the light deviates or is absorbed and cannot reach the retina correctly. If it is not treated, it can result in severe visual impairment or even blindness.
Cataracts can appear congenitally (from birth), with age, or secondary to other factors, such as diabetes, trauma or excessive exposure to ultraviolet light. In general, they usually occur as a natural degenerative process of the lens due to age. To diagnose a cataract it is necessary to perform a review with a slit lamp, evaluate the extent of the loss of transparency and assess the patient’s visual acuity.
Do I have cataracts?
The symptoms of people affected by cataracts are as follows:
- Blurred vision, loss of visual acuity
- Loss of colour intensity
- Refractive changes
- Poor night vision, mainly when driving
- Photophobia (sensitivity to lights)
- Halo effect around lights
- Double vision
- Diminished perception of details
How many types of cataracts are there?
There are three main types of cataracts in the eye, depending on the part of the lens affected:
Nuclear Cataract: usually appears as a result of age, due to the hardening and sclerosing of the lens (taking on a yellowish colour) over time. The opacity is found in the central part of the lens, the nucleus. As it changes in colour and shape (thicker), ocular refraction is also modified. The patient may note a slight improvement in near vision when affected by this type of cataract, although it is not permanent. It progresses slowly and a considerable amount of time is required for the cataract to mature before vision is really affected.
Cortical Cataract: this cataract develops in the cortex (periphery) of the lens, through cloudy areas which appear as white “stripes”. This opacity make the light disperse creating blurred vision and a deterioration in depth and contract perception.
Posterior Subcapsular Cataract: in this case the opacity appears as a small area on the posterior surface of the lens, directly beneath the capsule, which grows and can develop very quickly in a short space of time. The symptoms can often manifest themselves within a few months. This cataract mainly affects near vision and produces a halo effect around lights.
In an advanced cataract, the lens is totally opaque. The symptoms are severe and vision is badly affected. The complications which may arise after surgery on a “mature” or highly advanced cataract are significant. Therefore, to make treatment easier it is important to avoid reaching this point.
Treatment of the cataract is performed through outpatient surgery. The patient does not need to be hospitalised. This is a routine and moderately invasive operation with low risks thanks to the latest technology. It is the most commonly performed operation in developed countries.
Today, there are different types of intraocular lenses which can be implanted, taking into account all of the patient’s visual requirements. Before surgical treatment, it is determined if the patient is a good candidate for surgery through a full ophthalmological assessment and specific examinations to determine the suitable choice of intraocular lens. The results are highly satisfactory as a personalised study is performed before surgery to ensure full satisfaction is achieved.