Cataract: causes, warning symptoms and different treatments
What is a cataract?
Before talking about cataracts, we have to talk about crystalline. The lens is a small lens just behind the iris - the colored part of the eye. His role ? Make the "focus" on what we look at: it is he who allows us to see from near and far, but especially to make the transition between the two.
With age (or because of trauma, see below), the lens adopts a structure of "onion peels": it splits, resulting in its opacification - it is cataract.
What are the causes of cataracts? We distinguish 3 main etiologies, that is to say three "causes" which can be at the origin a opacification of the lens:
- Congenital cataract. Rarely rare (affects only 1 to 6 newborns in 10,000 *), congenital cataract affects the baby from birth: it can have genetic origins, be linked to a disease suffered by the mother during pregnancy ( rubella, for example) or a perinatal accident (difficult delivery). During the first days of life, the pediatrician systematically looks for the presence of a congenital cataract - in the health book, it is referred to as "leucocoria".
- The traumatic cataract. It appears when the content of the eye is subjected to a vibration: because of a shock (a blow that is received in the eye) or because of UV rays (emitted by the sun). .. Hence the importance of wearing sunglasses!
- The senile cataract. It is unfortunately inevitable: around 70 years, the lens naturally opacifies and it is cataract. It should be noted that senile cataract can occur earlier, especially in people who have suffered traumatic cataracts.
To know : people who take corticosteroids, diabetes medications or people on chemotherapy are more likely than others to have cataracts.
Cataract: What are the symptoms that need to alert?
Warning : unfortunately, the symptoms of cataracts often go unnoticed. Indeed, they appear gradually, sometimes during a decade: the person has time to get used to it and do not think to consult ...
The main symptoms of cataracts are:
- A myopization of systems. The person begins to see better and better up close (she often does not need glasses to read the newspaper) but her vision from a distance is deteriorating (independently of her correction),
- An altered perception of colors. The person has more and more difficult to distinguish the blue but his perception of red, it, improves. The National Union of Ophthalmologists of France (SNOF) illustrates this change in the perception of colors through the work of Monet, who was suffering from cataracts.
- An overall loss of visual acuity. This symptom comes later: the person's view goes down to 5/10 or less, even with glasses. The person has difficulty driving.
- A photophobia. The person is embarrassed by the bright lights; she perceives a luminous halo (as through a fog) around the light sources.
Cataract: what are the treatments?
The treatment of cataract necessarily goes through surgery, performed by an ophthalmologist. Phako-emulsification (the name of the operation in medical language) consists of destroying the opaque lens, removing it, and then replacing it with an artificial lens. The power of the latter is calculated using an ultrasound of the eye (biometry).
To know : the operation is performed under local anesthesia: although conscious during the procedure, the person feels no pain. And a tranquilizer can be administered to the most nervous ...
After the operation, it is necessary to take medication (antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops) for 1 month to reduce edema. You must also wear a protective plastic shell every night for 1 week. After 1 month, it is theoretically possible to start driving again and resume a sporting activity.
To know : in case of cataracts, operative accidents are extremely rare. On the other hand, it may be that the operation reveals a problem of retinal degeneration (for example: AMD).
Thanks to Véronique Morin, Orthoptist, Optometrist and Optician, Training Manager for theNational Association for the Improvement of Sight (AsnaV)
*source: French Journal of Ophthalmology - April 2006
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⋙ 5 truths about cataracts