Eye Health

21 December 2010

Cataract in a nutshell

The structures in your eyes change with age. Your may develop vision problems due to cataract formation or glaucoma.

Your once clear and transparent lens may become opaque, causing hazy vision and glare from bright lights. Cataracts have many causes, including age, diabetes and steroid medications.

  • No treatment can prevent or reverse the formation of a cataract. There is no conclusive evidence that sunglasses reduces the risk of cataract formation.
  • Cataracts cause deterioration of vision, but very rarely cause other serious problems. As a result one would normally consider treating a cataract only when vision has deteriorated to an unacceptable level. This is a very personal decision, because some people are quite happy with a level of vision that others find disabling.
  • Treatment involves surgical removal of the lens and its replacement with a new lens of clear synthetic material. The lens can be removed in a number of ways, but the most successful is by means of an ultrasound probe in a procedure known as phaco-emulsification. This is done through a small incision, usually just under the upper eyelid. This is one of the most successful of all surgical procedures, restoring vision in a very high percentage of cases.
  • There is currently no laser procedure available to remove a cataract.

Read more:
Laser eye surgery
Pterygium, the filmy membrane


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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