A cataract is defined as the clouding of the eye lens that is normally clear. Employees in occupations, such as physicists in cyclotron laboratories whose eyes are intermittently exposed to radiation, are at risk for cataracts. There have been no reported cases of x-ray technologists developing cataracts from exposure to x-rays, perhaps because of widespread use of protective leaded radiation glasses. Occupations such as x-ray technologists that expose employees to radiation require protective leaded eyewear to safeguard against eye damage. Some medical facilities and dental offices are now requiring patients to wear radiation glasses during many radiology procedures. Only the patient and medical personnel should be in the imaging suite during a radiology procedure. leaded glasses
Comfort is a primary consideration when selecting leaded eyewear. Lightweight glasses with a secure nosepiece and adjustable settings provide a relaxed fit. Peripheral protection with side shields is a vital factor. Clarity is important for the technologist or other professional to properly read the controls on x-ray, lab or nuclear machinery.
The cornea, conjunctiva, iris and the lens may be damaged with chronic or acute exposure to radiation. The proliferating cells of the anterior epithelium are the principal sites of damage. The damage may cause abnormal lens fibers, which eventually leads to a cataract. There is generally a period of several years between the time of exposure due to lack of use of radiation glasses and the appearance of a cataract. The symptoms include blurred or cloudy vision, colors may appear with a yellow hue or faded, difficulty with night vision, double vision, frequent prescription changes in corrective eyewear, halos appearing around lights and light sensitivity. The patient may be unaware of the vision loss in the beginning. More noticeable symptoms will develop as the cataract increases in size.
Surgery, the only effective treatment for cataracts, should be considered when quality of life is affected. The symptoms will begin to interfere with the ability to read and drive at night. As with any surgery, there is a risk of infection and bleeding. A consultation with a specialist is required to determine the unique risks and benefits of cataract surgery for a particular patient. The corrective procedure is usually performed as an outpatient. If both eyes require surgery, the second eye will be scheduled a few weeks following the first eye surgery. The cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a plastic lens implant during the surgery procedure. The patient is awake during surgery, as only a local anesthesia is used to numb the eye area. Eyeglasses or contact lenses maybe necessary if a replacement lens is prohibitive due to other eye complications.