A cataract is a dense, cloudy area that forms in the lens of the eye. A cataract begins when proteins in the eye form clumps that prevent the lens from sending clear images to the retina. The retina works by converting the light that comes through the lens into signals. It sends the signals to the optic nerve, which carries them to the brain.
It develops slowly and eventually interferes with your vision. You might end up with cataracts in both eyes, but they usually don’t form at the same time. Cataracts are common in older people.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. Roughly 51 percent of the world’s cases of blindness are the result of cataracts. That’s an estimated 20 million people.
It is estimated that blindness on about 6 million people in Africa are due to cataract. Most cataracts affect the elderly hence they account for majority of people who are blind worldwide. In addition, more women as compared to men were blind due to cataract and macular degeneration.
An estimated 48,000 surgeries are needed each year in Cameroon to treat new cases of cataracts as well as the current backlog of people who need cataract surgery, estimated to be 115,000. There are just three ophthalmologists per one million people in Cameroon, compared with a global average of around 31 ophthalmologists per one million people. (Cameroon Cataract Bond Records, 2020)
Symptoms of Cataracts
Common symptoms of cataracts include:
- blurry vision
- trouble seeing at night
- seeing colors as faded
- increased sensitivity to glare
- halos surrounding lights
- double vision in the affected eye
- a need for frequent changes in prescription glasses
What Causes Cataracts?
There are several underlying causes of cataracts. These include:
- an overproduction of oxidants, which are oxygen molecules that have been chemically altered due to normal daily life
- ultraviolet radiation
- the long-term use of steroids and other medications
- certain diseases, such as diabetes
- radiation therapy
Types of Cataracts
There are different types of cataracts. They’re classified based on where and how they develop in your eye.
- Nuclear cataracts form in the middle of the lens and cause the nucleus, or the center, to become yellow or brown.
- Cortical cataracts are wedge-shaped and form around the edges of the nucleus.
- Posterior capsular cataracts form faster than the other two types and affect the back of the lens.
- Congenital cataracts, which are present at birth or form during a baby’s first year, are less common than age-related cataracts.
- Secondary cataracts are caused by disease or medications. Diseases that are linked with the development of cataracts include glaucoma and diabetes. The use of the steroid prednisone and other medications can sometimes lead to cataracts.
- Traumatic cataracts develop after an injury to the eye, but it can take several years for this to happen.
- Radiation cataracts can form after a person undergoes radiation treatment for cancer.
Risk Factors of Cataracts
Risk factors associated with cataracts include:
- older age
- heavy alcohol use
- high blood pressure
- previous eye injuries
- a family history of cataracts
- too much sun exposure
- exposure to radiation from X-rays and cancer treatments.
Can Diabetes Cause Cataracts?
Diabetes is a condition in which your body doesn’t make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that allows sugar to enter the cells in your body. If your body has problems with insulin, glucose can accumulate in your bloodstream, resulting in high blood sugar.
Untreated high blood sugar can cause a range of health complications, including nerve damage and cardiovascular disease. But these aren’t the only complications of diabetes. It also raises the risk for cataracts.
A cataract is cloudiness of the eye lens, which causes blurry vision. Some people describe having cataracts as like looking through a fogged up window.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, about 32.2 percent of adults age 45 and over living with diabetes have cataracts.
The connection between diabetes and cataracts
Blood sugar is the link between diabetes and cataracts. To understand this link, though, it’s important to understand how high blood sugar affects the body.
If left unchecked, high blood sugar slowly damages blood vessels throughout the body. This includes the tiny blood vessels in the eyes. And when diabetes affects these blood vessels, there’s the risk of cataracts and other eye conditions.
Cataracts are the result of high sugar levels in the aqueous humor. The aqueous humor is the space between the eyeballs and the lens of the cornea. It supplies nutrients and oxygen to the lens.
When blood sugar rises, the lens swells, resulting in blurry vision.
Uncontrolled blood sugar also causes enzymes in the lens to convert glucose to a substance called sorbitol. Too much sorbitol in the lens leads to cloudy vision, too.
How to prevent a cataract if you have diabetes
If you have diabetes, you can prevent a cataract by maintaining a healthy blood sugar level. This involves monitoring your blood sugar on a regular basis and taking your diabetes medications as directed.
If you take insulin or other medications for diabetes but your blood sugar remains high, speak with a healthcare professional. They might need to adjust your medication.
Regular exercise also helps control your blood sugar. Physical activity allows your muscles to use glucose properly. It can also prevent type 2 diabetes from progressing.
Exercises to help stabilize blood sugar include:
- brisk walking
- competitive sports
Other steps to protect your eyes include getting comprehensive eye examinations at least once a year, maintaining healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and giving up tobacco if you use it.
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Cameroon Cataract bond records
World Health Organization