In 2022, the World Health Organisation reported that visual impairment is one of the leading causes of financial burden, estimated at around US$411 billion. The report further stated that out of the 2.2 billion people suffering from visual impairment, about 1 billion could have had their sight restored or had their blindness prevented with on-time treatment. In most cases, the major cause of blindness is associated with cataracts, which affect about 94 million people.
But what is a cataract? Is there only one type of cataract, and can it be cured? These are some questions that need to be addressed so that the future can be better and people do not lose sight of this issue.
One of the leaders in preventing unwanted blindness caused by cataracts is the Tej Kohli and Ruit Foundation (TKRF). The non-profit organisation is headed by philanthropist Tej Kohli and eye surgeon Dr Sanduk Ruit. They aim to cure 50,000 people suffering from cataracts or cataract-induced blindness and screen 1,000,000 by 2030 as part of the UN’s initiative, #InSight 2030.
What Is Cataract?
The protein buildup in the lens of the eye is called cataract. The buildup of the protein causes opacity and cloudiness within the lens. This eventually causes blurry, faded, or hazy vision, and when left untreated, it worsens, which can lead to blindness.
Though it is often believed that cataracts are an old-age eye problem, the truth is that cataracts can be caused by several other factors, and even babies and children can have them. However, the majority of people suffering from cataracts are over the age of 40.
Different Types of Cataracts and Their Cure
As mentioned, age is a leading factor that spurs the maturing or formation of cataracts, but there are various other reasons that cause it. For instance, there have been studies that show a link between cataracts forming due to smoking, diabetes, eye injuries or trauma, the use of certain medications, and even steroids. Also, genetics can increase the chance of developing cataracts.
Based on the location of the cataract and how it develops, the disease can be categorised into seven types.
- Nuclear cataract
This is the most common type and is often related to ageing. It starts at the central area of the lens known as the nucleus, where the protein deposit starts to harden and then turn yellow. If left unoperated, it will start spreading and dim the light that reaches the retina.
- Cortical cataract
Instead of starting from the nucleus, it starts from the cortex, i.e., the lens edges, and moves inward. It can be seen as white patches on the eyeball and is often related to diabetes. If left untreated, i.e., without cataract surgery, the progression won’t stop and will eventually cause blindness.
- Posterior subcapsular cataract
Often, posterior subcapsular cataract is related to steroidal drugs and people taking medication for treating arthritis. In this case, the cataract forms on the back of the lens rather than the front. Doctors can offer alternative medication or treatment for arthritis when the symptoms of cataracts develop. However, the condition can be treated with a surgical procedure called phacoemulsification, and in cases of inflammation, medications and anti-inflammatory drugs can be prescribed.
- Congenital cataract
It is recorded that about 23% of the patients inherit congenital cataracts, which means they are caused by genes. At times, it can also be the result of an illness suffered by the mother during pregnancy. A congenital cataract is associated with new born babies, and the severity of it can vary. Early diagnosis is vital, and detection surgery is the way to cure any future issues, which can be ‘lazy eye, limited vision, lack of coordination, or even blindness.
- Traumatic cataract
One-fifth of adults are likely to suffer from this condition, where the cataract is caused by some injury or trauma to the eye. Since it is often associated with other eye problems that affect the retina, cornea, and lens, it can be difficult to treat compared to other cataracts. It often involves surgery along with treatment of other underlying issues.
- Radiation cataract
People who have been exposed to some kind of radiation regularly can suffer from radiation cataracts. For instance, a radiologist, doctor, or dentist can get it, and cancer patients who receive radiotherapy are exposed to radiation and are prone to developing radiation cataracts. Often it is a posterior subcapsular condition, but at times it can be a cortical cataract. The condition can be treated with clear corneal surgery.
- Secondary cataract
When a person who has already had cataract surgery gets the lens clouded, it is known as a secondary cataract. Though it is reported in small numbers, it happens because of the regrowth of the affected cells, and it can be treated with surgery.
Cataract Surgery Is the Best Option
These seven major types of cataracts can be treated when diagnosed at an early stage with cataract surgery. Depending on the location of the cataract, the surgical procedure can change, but the advancement in cataract surgery warrants an impressive success rate so that people won’t go blind because of the condition. Noble-hearted Tej Kohli and Dr Sanduk Ruit understand that, and they have been spearheading the cause of reducing cataract-caused blindness with early detection, free surgery, and creating a sustainable world. They are taking the screening and mobile surgical operating theatres to the patients in the most underdeveloped and underserved communities of the world so that more people can get on-time treatment and don’t go blind due to cataracts.