Medically Reviewed by Dr. David Costa Navarro
What are cataracts?
Cataract is a pathology characterized by the opacification of the lens, a “lens” that is located inside the eye. The lens, which separates the anterior chamber of the eye from the posterior one, is made up of particular proteins that give it transparency and elasticity and is the structure that allows you to focus on objects. Cataracts generally appear after the age of 60, although there are also congenital forms (and therefore inherited), secondary forms of trauma (e.g. perforating eye trauma, intense heat, chemical trauma), secondary forms of drug treatments (e.g. cortisone ) and forms secondary to systemic diseases (e.g. diabetes). With regard to the location of opacity, there are three types of cataract: nuclear cataract, which affects the central part of the lens, cortical cataract that affects the external part, and subcapsular cataract that affects the internal part.
How it manifests itself
The most important symptom is a progressive loss of vision. They are also characteristic signs: blurred or double vision, high sensitivity to light (photophobia), less vivid color perception, vision of specks or dark spots. Myopia, farsightedness or astigmatism may also appear. Cataracts do not cause pain and are not accompanied by an inflammatory state.
What should be done
If you are over 50 years old and you suffer from vision disorders and you experience some of the symptoms described above, you should contact your ophthalmologist to make a complete ophthalmological examination. The ophthalmologist, once the presence of glaucoma is excluded, an increase in intraocular pressure that can cause a similar symptomatology, and once the existence of the cataract is established, will evaluate, with the help of appropriate tools, the type, size and location the opacity of the lens. Since, to date, there are no proven pharmacological treatments for the treatment of cataracts, the only way forward is surgery. Naturally, the doctor and the patient will evaluate together the need for surgical intervention by removing the opaque lens and implanting a replacement lens.
Currently there are different surgical techniques: all have the purpose of eliminating the opaque lens leaving only the capsule (the membrane that supports it) in place, which will constitute the support of the prosthesis. Phacoemulsification is currently the most advanced technique and is based on the use of an ultrasound suction probe which fragments the lens and then aspirates it through an incision of about 3 mm. An artificial lens is then inserted through this small incision and attached to the capsule. The surgery is generally carried out under local anesthesia (practicing some painless injections near the eye). This type of surgery, now generally performed in day-hospital or outpatient, allows for rapid recovery (in the order of days or weeks). However, approximately 30% of those who have undergone surgery may experience a secondary form of cataract, characterized by the opacification of the support capsule. Through a laser treatment (YAG laser) it is possible in a few seconds to remove all opacities in a painless and definitive way.