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What is a cataract?

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Dear Readers,

Recently I posted a poll question on my Beachmont Facebook page http://goo.gl/5iT8D

The question I asked was: “A cataract is?”

A. A clouding of the retina

B. A clouding of the cornea

C. A fleshy growth on the eye

D. A clouding of the lens

E. None of the above

After writing so much about cataracts, I was so shocked to find out that most persons responded with (a) as the answer. To me this means that more public awareness programs need to be developed.{{more}} By the way the answer is (d).

Most people also have the problem of differentiating between a pterygium, which is a fleshy growth on the eye, and a cataract, which is clouding of the lens in the eye. The retina is the innermost layer.

First, let us talk about the normal eye. Inside our eyeball is a lens and this lens is responsible for focusing images. It is normally transparent. When light enters our eyes, it passes through the lens and is focused on the retina. The retina then takes the information and transmits the image to the brain.

When this lens becomes cloudy, we call it a cataract. This cloudy lens blocks the passage of light through the eye and, as a result, the image that reaches our brain via our retina is cloudy and causes poor vision.

So what causes cataracts?

Cataracts are caused by a change in the chemical composition of one’s lens. Our natural aging process is the most common cause for this type of change. As we grow older, the lens which is normally flexible and clear becomes harder and often more cloudy.

This really means that anyone who lives long enough will eventually develop some form of cataract.

Cataracts can present at any age, although they are most commonly seen after the age of 40.

Congenital cataracts are cataracts that present at birth. Traumatic cataracts are caused by an injury to the eye. Eye diseases and infections can cause cataracts. Overuse of certain medications such as steroids have been known to cause cataracts. Also conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes and eye tumors may contribute to the development of a cataract. This is called secondary cataract.

As the cataract develops, vision loss follows. This is usually a gradual process.

So for all the FB fans please write in the correct answer and like my page in the process http://goo.gl/5iT8D

Have a great week.

Dr Kenneth Onu is a resident Consultant Ophthalmologist at the Beachmont Eye Institute/Eyes R Us Send questions to: Beachmont@gmail.com
Tel: 784 456-1210

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