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The Patient's Guide to ...
Cataracts:
an explanation
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What are Cataracts?

Cataracts clouds the iris of the eye and causes vision loss. Overtime, the light that passes through the lens of the eye and becomes blurry, making it increasingly difficult to see through the retina. It is most common within the senior community and its rare for cataracts to appear in anyone below the age of 40 years, but symptoms can begin to develop or show around 60 years.

 

Symptoms that occur:

  • Blurry vision

  • Colors appear faded

  • Hypersensitivity to light

  • Difficulty seeing at night

  • Double vision

  • Frequent changes in prescription glasses  

What are the risks?

Cataracts are more likely to happen due to aging, but can develop from the following situations:

 

  • Smoking

  • Over consumption of alcohol

  • Family history of cataracts

  • Particular health problems like diabetes

  • Intense exposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays

  • Use of steroids

  • Eye injuries, surgery, and radiation on the upper body

  • Where you live regarding on if you are in a high altitude

 

Diagnosis

For diagnosis of cataracts, there are two types of indicators to tell whether someone has this or not, one is the visual acuity test and the other is through pupil dilation. The visual acuity test is an eye exam that determines how well someone can see a letter or symbol from a distance and pupil dilation test shows how much light can pass through the retina, checking the optic nerve as well.

 

Treatments

Surgery is the most common form of treatment for cataracts, where the cloudy lens of the eye is switched out for a clearer lens to provide better vision. Although aging does increase the chances of developing this, there are ways to prevent its evolving. Avoid smoking cigarettes, reduce exposure to UV rays, and eat more “eye-friendly” nutrients found in power foods like carrots, citrus fruits, and fish.

Spina Bifida:
Split Spine
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What is Spina Bifida?

Derived from the Latin word for “split spine”, spina bifida is a birth defect where the area of the spine does not fully develop, causing the section of the spinal cord and nerves to be exposed through an opening of the back. 1 out of 2,000 people in the United States are born with spina bifida each year, making it the most common central system birth defect.

 

There are four specific forms of this birth defect:

Myelomeningocele: Where the backbone and spinal column do not close before birth creating a gap.

 

Myeloschisis: Neural plates in the spine create an incomplete neural tube, or fails to completely close, creating a cleft spinal column.

 

Lipomeningocele: Spinal cord peaks through the spinal column and causes a sac or fatty tumor to form underneath the skin.

 

Myelocystocele: A cystic dilation in the center of the spine that herniates the spinal canal.

 

Causes of spina bifida:

  • Genetic, environmental, and micronutrient causes

  • Family history of neural tube defects

  • Folate and folic acid deficiency (B-9 vitamins)

 

Diagnosis of spina bifida can be determined through multiple benefactors such as before birth during pregnancy, blood tests at 16-18 weeks of pregnancy as well as the use of ultrasounds (sonogram), and amniocentesis (where a small sample of amniotic fluid is taken from the spine to test).

 

Complications of spina bifida:

  • Walking or mobility issues

  • Bladder/bowel movement difficulty

  • Hydrocephalus (unusual buildup of fluids within the cavities of the brain)

  • Shunt malfunction

  • Tethered spinal cord

  • Chiari Malform type 2 (brain stem tissue and cerebellum elongate into the base of the skull in which the spine forms)

  • Skin problems

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Emily Conenna is a senior at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania with a major in Public Relations and a minor in Professional Writing. She has devoted much volunteer time to raising awareness about Cystic Fibrosis and other major diseases through her writing and social media work. Emily is the editor of the Patient Guide series.

June 2022 page 5