Galactosemic Cataract - Ensuing Osmotic Pressure

Ensuing Osmotic Pressure

As galactitol concentration increases in the lens, a hypertonic environment is created. Osmosis favors the movement of water into the lens fibers to reduce the high osmolarity. Figures 2 and 3 show how water concentration increases as galactitol concentration increases inside the lens of galactosemic animals sustained on a galactose diet. This osmotic movement ultimately results in the swelling of lens fibers until they rupture. Vacuoles appear where a significant amount of osmotic dissolution of fiber has taken place. What are left are interfibrillar clefts filled with precipitated proteins: the manifestation of a cataract. Friedenwald was able to show that periphery lens fibers always dissolve before fibers at the equatorial region of the lens. This observation has been confirmed by more recent experiments as well, but is still unexplained. The progression of galactosemic cataract is generally divided into three stages; initial vacuolar, late vacuolar, and nuclear cataract. The formation of a mature, nuclear, cloudy galactosemic cataract typically surfaces 14 to 15 days after the onset of the galactose diet. Fig. 6 depicts the three stages of galactosemic cataract with their respective changes in lens hydration.

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