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Cataract: causes, symptoms, and intervention

Cataracts are a condition that leads to the clouding of a natural lens inside the eye, the lens being located between the iris and the vitreous body (a gel-like substance found in the eyeball).

According to the most recent statistics compiled by Istat, cataracts affect approximately 8.5% of Italians aged between 70 and 74, a percentage that rises to 12.4% for the 75-80 age group and 17.1% for those over 80. The World Health Organization (WHO) indicates that it is the leading cause of blindness and visual impairment worldwide, despite being a condition that is always reversible. According to WHO data, cataracts are responsible for over 50% of cases of visual disability worldwide, mainly concentrated in developing countries where the opportunities for cataract surgery are very limited.

Cataracts’ causes

There are different types of cataracts, all caused by changes in the chemical composition of the lens that lead to a reduction in its transparency. These alterations can be due to various causes: the main one is certainly aging, but there are also changes resulting from eye injuries, ophthalmic or systemic diseases (such as diabetes), hereditary or congenital defects.

Senile cataract

The most common type of cataract is senile cataract: in this case, the normal aging process causes the hardening of the lens and the consequent reduction of its transparency, leading to opacity.

In addition to the elderly, this disorder can also affect adults who are not advanced in age and in some cases children. In this case, it is called congenital cataract, a so-called “inherited” form. The opacity of the lens can be caused by an infectious or inflammatory condition that occurs during gestation and affects the unborn child, such as rubella.

Cataracts can also result from eye trauma. We are talking about wounds, penetrating traumas, exposure to intense heat, or the action of chemical agents capable of damaging the lens and causing cataract formation.

Cataracts symptoms

The symptoms that can serve as warning signs for the onset of this disorder include blurred vision (as if looking through frosted glass) or double vision, hypersensitivity to light (photophobia), a sensation of glare, less vivid color perception, and finally, a need for frequent changes in eyeglass prescriptions.

In some cases, individuals with presbyopia may find that with the onset of cataracts, they can see better up close. This is due to the gradual myopic shift of the eye caused by the hardening process of the lens.

Cataracts Surgery

When cataracts impair the patient’s vision, cataract surgery is the only effective remedy. Today, the surgical removal of cataracts is commonly performed using a technique called phacoemulsification.- one of the most common ophthalmic surgery – It is performed using the phacoemulsification technique, which involves fragmenting the lens using ultrasound and then removing the residual fragments. A small artificial lens, commonly called an “intraocular lens,” is implanted in place of the “defective” lens.

Cataracts Surgery: recovery times

Thanks to technological advancements, recovery after the surgery is very rapid. This is due to the reduced size of the incisions on the cornea and, above all, the widespread use of the phacoemulsification technique, which is much less traumatic.

Cataracts Surgery: equippment

The operating room at MiniHospital “Sandro Pertini” is equipped with a Bausch & Lomb Stellaris phacoemulsifier. Among the most advanced devices currently available, this instrument operates by generating high-frequency ultrasound directed through a probe with a diameter of approximately 2 mm, enabling the fragmentation and aspiration of the crystalline lens.

For cataract surgery, both the primary surgeon and the assistant surgeon can also rely on a high-quality microscope manufactured by Zeiss, which allows for magnification of ocular structures.

Secondary Cataract

Secondary cataract is a very common cause of visual deterioration. It can occur many years after the primary cataract surgery and is caused by a cellular reaction to the presence of the artificial lens implanted to correct the original disorder. When the “lens” becomes cloudy, a specific technique called “capsulotomy” is performed using a specialized instrument, the Yag laser. This technique allows for the resolution of secondary cataracts in a simple, rapid, and completely non-invasive manner.

In addition to diagnostic tools, the ophthalmology clinic at MiniHospital “Sandro Pertini” has two instruments for the treatment of ocular pathologies, Yag and Argon lasers. The Yag laser intervenes in the anterior segment of the eye and is used to treat so-called secondary cataracts, caused by the clouding of a membrane that forms behind the lens replaced after cataract surgery.

Cataracts Surgery: An operating room compliant with ISO 5 safety standards

In addition to having the most advanced technological instruments, MiniHospital “Sandro Pertini” offers its patients the security of an operating room compliant with ISO 5 standards. As is known, in surgical practice, the risk of contracting an infection is closely related to the quality of the air in the operating room. In the air, 98% of bacteria are present, and their presence must be reduced with barrier filters.

Based on these considerations, the operating room at MiniHospital “Sandro Pertini” is equipped with a central laminar flow system classified as ISO 5 for complex procedures, as required by the Institute for Prevention and Safety at Work in cases of transplants, prosthesis implantation, neurosurgery, oncology, orthopedics, and ophthalmology. Through this system, the bacterial load is reduced using a unidirectional flow that includes both the surgical field and the serving table.

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