Facts about cataract

Facts about cataract
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First Published: Wed, Dec 26 2007. 12 28 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Dec 26 2007. 12 28 AM IST
What is cataract? Why is it called ‘motia’?
Cataract refers to the clouding of the lens in the eye. The protein in the human lens, which is just like that of a camera, coagulates and denatures. A good example is the clear egg white that becomes white and opaque when exposed to heat. Due to the white pearly appearance of the lens, doctors in India call it ‘motia’, meaning pearl.
Does it occur only in the elderly?
No. It can affect even newborn babies who suffer from galactosemia, a metabolic disorder. Mothers can contract cataract while the baby is in the womb because of infections such as rubella or German measles. Other causes would include taking steroids, undergoing radiation for cancer and exposing the eye to ultraviolet and infrared rays. Finally, any blow to the eye usually results in cataract.
Can it be cured by eye drops?
The truth is, cataract is an irreversible chemical reaction that can only be treated by surgery. Don’t be taken in by ‘miracle’ eye drops offered by non-medical practitioners. Such drops only dilate the pupil, allowing more light to enter the eye. In some cases, the patient is able to see marginally better but only for a few hours.
Should cataract operations be done only in summer?
This is one of the most common myths related to eye surgery. Today, cataract can be removed with an incision as small as 0.7mm and the patient can go home in a couple of hours, following the doctor’s advice.
In cataract surgery, is the eye cut open?
No. Cataract surgery only involves a very small (0.7-1.8mm) opening that is made in the eye and sealed immediately. A combination of pulses of warm water (AquaLase) and vibration (OZil) is used to safely dissolve the cataract.
Do I need a lens implant in the eye?
Yes, doing the surgery without the appropriate lens implant is like doing a knee replacement without prosthesis. Today, lens implant is performed in 100% of cataract surgeries. The lenses are made of acrylic plastic which do not react with the body and, theoretically, should last much longer than any human lifespan. Lenses implanted even 40 years ago show no sign of ageing. These lenses are injected into the eye through a 1-2mm tunnel that seals instantly and needsno stitches.
Would I need to wear spectacles for reading after surgery?
Modern lenses can be multifocal and one wouldn’t need spectacles. The catch is the cost for the lens, which is generally not covered by insurance.
What is the post-operative recovery period?
As the small opening seals instantly, you can get back to normal life almost immediately. You can even go for a run after a few days. This, however, is case- specific and is best decided by the surgeon.
By Dr Cyres K. Mehta, consultant, Masina Hospital and Breach, Candy Hospital, Mumbai
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First Published: Wed, Dec 26 2007. 12 28 AM IST