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Ophthalmology


A cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens that causes decreased vision. The lens of the eye focuses light rays onto the retina (the light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye) where an image is recorded. This allows us to see things clearly. The lens of the eye comprises mostly water and protein. The protein is arranged in a way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. A cataract develops when some of the protein clumps together and starts to cloud an area of the lens. A cataract won't spread from one eye to the other, although many people develop cataracts in both eyes. As the cataract matures and gets cloudier, it may become difficult to read and do other normal tasks. The exact cause of this clouding is not known. However, a number of factors are known to contribute to the formation of cataracts:

Aging, as proteins in the lens change
Medical conditions such as diabetes
Certain infections
Eye injury or burns of the eye
Exposure to radiation
Taking steroid medications for long periods
Excessive exposure to bright sunlight
Birth defects, such as congenital cataracts
Excessive alcohol use or smoking

Cataract surgery is usually done as an outpatient under local anesthesia and most often takes less than one hour. Most cataract surgeries involve removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial one. There are two primary types of cataract removal surgery. The first is Phacoemulsification, or Small Incision Cataract Surgery, where a tiny probe is inserted into the eye. The probe emits ultrasound waves that break up the cloudy lens into small fragments. The tiny pieces are then removed by suction. This is the most common form of cataract removal surgery, and usually requires no stitches. The second type of cataract surgery is called is Extracapsular Surgery, where an incision is made in the eye, and the hard center of the lens is removed. The remainder of the lens is removed by suction. This surgery usually requires stitches, although the stitches can stay in the eye permanently. In both types of surgery, local anesthesia is used so that you do not feel any pain. You will also likely be given a sedative to make you more comfortable.

In most cases, the removed lens is replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL). An IOL is a clear artificial lens. It requires no special care, and remains permanently in the eye. In some cases, an IOL cannot be used, usually due to surgical complications, unusual anatomy, or other eye diseases. In these cases, either a contact lens or eyeglasses that provide very powerful magnification are used after the surgery to correct the vision.

Disorders of the Eye - National Library of Medicine


National Eye Institute

The mission of the National Eye Institute is to conduct and support research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to blinding eye diseases, visual disorders, mechanisms of visual function, preservation of sight, and the special health problems and requirements of the blind.





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