About Cataracts
 
What is a cataract?
 
A cataract is a clouding of the crystalline lens in the eye (the part of the eye that focuses light and produces clear images). This clouding is caused by a build-up of protein in the lens preventing light from passing clearly through it. As new cells form on the outside of the lens the older cells get compacted into the centre of the lens. Over time, this process causes a gradual, progressive decrease in vision and eventually leads to blindness.
 
Causes of cataracts
 
Cataracts develop for a variety of reasons, including long-term exposure to ultraviolet light, exposure to radiation, eye injury, genetic pre-dispositioning, advanced age and secondary effects of diseases such as diabetes.
 
Impact of untreated cataracts
 
During the initial stages of cataracts the steady deterioration in sight prevents patients from recognizing faces or finding their way in unfamiliar territory. As the condition progresses to blindness, the individual requires more and more care and becomes increasingly unable to gain employment, generate income or function independently.
 
The cost involved in caring for a blind individual, both in time and lost wages, places an economic burden on the family and the community. In many poor communities young children are often taken out of school to look after the blind individual, thus depriving the child of education and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
 
Treating cataracts
 
Depending on the stage of the cataract, one of the following surgeries is performed:
 
  • Phacoemulsification cataract surgery
This procedure is selected if the cataract is in the less advanced stage. The procedure involves making a small incision into the eye, inserting a probe to liquidise the cataract before it is washed out and an artificial plastic lens inserted.
 
  • Scleral tunnel extracapsular surgery
This surgery is used when the cataract is considered to be in the advanced stage. The surgery involves making a scleral tunnel incision into the eye, removing the hard central portion of the cataract, washing out the soft portion and inserting an artificial plastic lens.
 
Both procedure are performed under local anaesthetic and take between 30 - 45 minutes. The majority of patients that undergo surgery in the morning are fit to return home the same day.
 




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Syfrets Charitable Trust and
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