Cataracts are formed when the clear lens inside the eye starts to become cloudy, thereby reducing the quality and clarity of the image formed on the retina.
Once the reduction in vision starts to impact on the quality of life (while driving, for instance), referral for cataract surgery is required. Cataract surgery today is usually an out-patient procedure carried out under local anaesthesia. Although cataracts are known to form at any age, they are more typically age-related, found mostly in people over the age of 65.
Cataracts typically develop slowly over a long period of time and are not painful, however in some instances they can develop more suddenly.
The main symptoms of cataracts are:
- Misty or blurry vision
- Difficulty in reading or seeing details at a distance
- Experiencing double vision
- Being dazzled in bright lights - particularly driving at night
- Changes to colour vision, including colours seeming faded or washed out
Cataracts are the result of a loss of transparency of the crystalline lens. This naturally occurs as we get older. However, a number of other factors can contribute to the development of cataracts, such as:
- Overexposure to UV sources, including excessive sunlight
- Taking steroids for long periods of time
- Injuries to the eye or following eye surgery
- Contact with toxic materials and radiation
Cataracts can form at any age. There are cases where babies are born with them, and these are known as congenital cataracts. In younger people they can result from conditions such as diabetes, certain medications and other eye problems.
Treatment is only usually started once the cataract begins to affect vision and interrupt daily routine tasks.
This is usually done by a short and simple eye operation, involving a procedure under local anaesthetic in which the old lens in the eye is replaced with a clear plastic implant.
Cataracts can be spotted during a routine eye examination. Your Optometrist will refer you to a hospital Ophthalmologist once your vision becomes affected. They will then discuss surgery in more detail, if it’s an option for you. The Ophthalmologist will discuss the potential visual expectations following surgery.
Vision is normally instantly improved once surgery is completed. Once fully recovered many patients find they have good clear distance vision. However, new glasses are frequently needed, especially for reading, as the prescription often changes following the cataract operation.
We recommend you have an Eye Test at least every two years regardless of symptoms and/or conditions.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, please make an appointment with the optical expert at your nearest Vision Express store.