What are cataracts?
Cataracts are cloudy areas that form in the lens of the eye. Normally, a lens is clear but for someone with cataracts, clouding develops which interferes with the light entering in the eye and results in poor vision.
A cataract is not a growth on the eye – it’s a change in the normally clear lens of the eye. If left untreated, cataracts can lead to progressive vision loss and blindness, which is why any change to your vision should not be ignored.
Am I at risk of developing cataracts?
Most cataracts develop as a normal part of the ageing process and are commonly found in people over 65 years of age. Long-term exposure to UV sunlight is also a risk
factor for developing cataracts which is why sun protection, including sunglasses, is recommended for all people –including children and teenagers.
Other risk factors for cataracts include:
- Certain diseases (e.g. diabetes)
- Eye injury
- Family history
Early detection of cataracts
Usually the development of cataracts is gradual and painless.
The key symptoms to look for are:
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Double vision
- Increased sensitivity to light (glare)
- Reduced night vision
- Fading or ‘yellowing’ of colours
You may not experience all of the symptoms and they may present differently in each of your eyes, or in only one eye. They sometimes develop so slowly you may not even notice any changes. This is why any changes to your vision should be discussed with your optometrist without delay.
The only treatment for cataracts is surgery. Surgery is often recommended by an optometrist when a person’s vision deteriorates enough to interfere with their daily life – commonly when they start to affect a person’s ability to drive safely.
If you have cataracts, your optometrist may refer you to an ophthalmologist to determine if your cataracts should be removed. Cataract surgery is usually performed under a local anaesthetic and done as a day procedure. The surgery involves removing the cloudy lens of the eye and replacing it with an intraocular (plastic) lens. After surgery, eye-drops are used to reduce infl ammation and for most people, recovery of vision occurs within days.
Keeping your eyes healthy
Regular eye examinations will reveal any changes that have occurred in the lens of your eyes.
At Health Partners Optical, our optometrists can detect changes
in the lens that may lead to cataracts, even several years before symptoms appear.
While there is no proven method for preventing cataracts, sun protection (wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses) and not smoking may reduce your risk.