Author(s): Vrensen GF
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Abstract Cataract is still the dominant cause of blindness worldwide. Cortical cataract is the most prevalent of the age-related changes in the human lenses that require surgical intervention to restore vision. The absence of adequate cataract surgery in most developing countries is the main cause of the high prevalence of cataract blindness worldwide. Lens ageing is accompanied by dramatic increases in stiffness, light scattering and coloration of the lens nucleus. These changes start to become manifest as early as the fourth or fifth decade of life and lead to nuclear cataract in old age. In the same period the equatorial deep lens cortex starts to show small opaque shades, which eventually grow out to segmental and annular opacities. These opaque shades are filled with small vesicles and contain abnormal amounts of cross-linked proteins, cholesterol and phospholipids. They are bordered by membranes that are rich in square arrays, have 'degenerate' gap junctions and have few intramembranous particles. It has been shown that the opaque shades represent cohorts of locally affected fibres segregated from unaffected neighbouring fibres by 'non-leaky' membranes. This segregation is an effective mechanism delaying the outgrowth of these opacities to cuneiform cataracts entering the pupillary space and thus leading to blinding cortical cataracts. Although cataract formation is mostly considered to be a multi-factorial disease, oxidative stress might be one of the leading causes for both nuclear and cortical cataract. In cortical cataracts shear stress between cortex and nucleus during accommodation may also play a significant role.
This article was published in Acta Ophthalmol
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Ophthalmology