In Brief — The history, the people, the development of cataracts and the way they are treated. [Written in October/November 2017.]
To See or Not To See —
It’s a simple operation that can mean the difference between sight and blindness. To the person afflicted with cataracts the operation results in preliminary nervousness, but to those who have had the operation it’s a snap and an easy way to see clearly and maybe get rid of those glasses that have been a permanent feature on their faces.
What are Cataracts and What are Not? —
Simply stated, cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye that result in a dimming of the ability to see clearly. They are at the front of the eye, develop slowly and are usually seen in older people. Cataracts are not painful, but they are annoying if only because they mean more light is required to see what was once seen clearly. They are usually a result of too much exposure to ultra-violet light such as sunlight. Lens replacement surgery replaces the cloudy lens with a plastic one that cannot become cloudy.
Cataracts are not Retinal Detachment, Glaucoma or Macular Degeneration. Glaucoma is increased pressure within the eye that can injure or destroy the ocular nerve located at the back of the eye. It is inherited and can only be controlled with eye drops.
Retinal Detachment occurs at the back of the eye. It can result in blindness if not corrected. Early surgery to repair the detachment is recommended.
Macular Degeneration (wet and dry) seems to be another inherited eye disease. The wet version is more dangerous because it allows blood to leak into the eye. Surgery is recommended to stop the leakage. At present, vision can be saved but sight cannot be improved.
Regardless of causes, a hasty trip to the nearest qualified eye doctor is essential as soon as you suspect a problem. Better safe than sorry.
The History of Cataracts —
This is about cataracts, not other eye diseases, so a brief history of cataracts is in order.
Cataracts have clouded eyes for millennia. Evidence shows that humans have been afflicted with cataracts since ancient times. Early Egyptian tombs show individuals being operated on for cataracts. Documents from India and the Middle East reveal that it was known at an early age. It’s only within the last two centuries that operations have improved the rate of success. The plastic used today arose in Britain when it was discovered that airplane plastic canopy fragments were accepted by pilots’ eyes. Since then, lenses have been refined until we have today’s lens replacements.
Famous People Who had Cataracts —
It’s not just folks like me who have been afflicted with cataracts. The artist Claude Monet had cataracts. Some say that the soft colors of his paintings were the result of his affliction.
The early astronomer Galileo Galilei has been reported to have cataracts.
Queen Victoria of England had her sight dimmed by cataracts.
The actor John Goodman says he has cataracts.
Cataracts are a Common Affliction —
Famous or common, many people are or have been plagued with cataracts. I am one of those struck by the double whammy of both cataracts and glaucoma. Regular eye drops control the glaucoma pressure and allow me to see. With any luck I’ll be the recipient of lenses that will make my final years better.
Let us know how your eyes are doing. Let’s hope that modern science has worked for your eyes.