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Close up of eye and cataract

What are cataracts?

A cataract occurs when the lens inside the eye becomes cloudy. The lens is located behind the iris and pupil and helps focus light on the back of the eye (retina). Signals are then sent to the brain which allows us to see. Typically, cataracts develop during our older years and this is known as age-related cataracts.

How does a cataract affect my vision?

When we’re young, the lens within our eye is usually clear. The development of a cataract is a gradual and painless process, and so the onset may be hard to spot. Due to the slow clouding of the lens, light is unable to reach the retina, and this results in vision that is slightly blurred or dull. Eventually, the lens may become frosted over, just like a steamy mirror. It’s highly likely that you’ll experience cataracts in both eyes, though in some cases the development will begin in one eye before the other.

Image comparing difference between normal vision and with cataracts

Original photo by Will Paterson on Unsplash

What are the causes?

Whilst there is not a definitive answer as to why we are more likely to develop cataracts as we age, it’s believed that there are a number of things that can increase the risk:

Sunlight through trees

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

What are the symptoms?

Aside from blurred vision and faded colours, you may notice the following:

  • Sun/streetlights are brighter than normal
  • Difficulty seeing in low-lighting conditions
  • Headlights from vehicles are causing more glare than usual
  • The need to clean your glasses, even though the lenses aren’t dirty

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, we suggest speaking to your Optician.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

Cataracts can be detected during a simple routine eye test. As Opticians look through your lens, they will be able to spot anything that is out of the ordinary. They’ll be able to determine how progressed the condition is and provide advice on management and treatment going forward. In some cases, your Optician may refer you for some further tests with an Ophthalmologist.

Can it be treated?

In the early stages, it’s possible that vision can be improved by changing the prescription in your glasses and adapting your lighting conditions to be brighter and more focused to the activity you’re carrying out, such as reading a book. However, if your cataracts have advanced and are affecting your ability to carry out simple tasks, your Optician may refer you for surgery.

As everyone’s eyes are unique, you’ll have an initial assessment before surgery is booked to discuss the process and outcome. Described to be a painless and effective procedure, the affected lens will be removed and switched with a clear, plastic replacement. Over 90% of cataracts operations have proven to be effective at restoring working vision. In advanced cases, cataracts can lead to sight loss if left untreated. If you ever feel like there are any changes to your sight, we strongly recommend that you speak to your Optician.

Vegetables

Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

Whilst cataracts can be quite daunting, changes to your lifestyle such as giving up smoking and improving your diet can help prevent the onset of cataracts. Why not read our post on the top five foods for happy and healthy eyes?