You’ve probably heard of cataracts – when the normally clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy. It happens because the lens becomes hardened, and it means a gradual decrease in vision.
Most cataracts develop just with age. They tend to affect people over 65, but it can vary – with some affected earlier and some with no issues until their 70s. Most of us will have some form of cataract development by around 80.
It’s worth noting that aside from age, other risk factors include long-term exposure to sunlight, smoking, diabetes and family history.
You might not notice much at all early on, but as they progress they can cause cloudy, blurred or dim vision. Some people say it’s like looking through a dirty window.
It’s also quite common for people to feel sensitive to glare - especially on a bright sunny day or when driving at night on artificially lit roads. If you need to change glasses or contact lens prescriptions more frequently, that can be a sign too.
Short term, you can often get some relief with a new glasses prescription. But the most effective way to get relief is to have them surgically removed. The good news is it’s pretty straightforward and is usually performed under a local anaesthetic. If you don’t have any other eye conditions, your vision should significantly improve after surgery.
While you can’t do much to prevent cataracts, wearing good sunglasses can help. Smoking’s a risk factor too, so quitting is the best way to take that risk out of the equation.
Having a regular eye test with your optometrist, especially if you’re over the age of 65, can help with early detection and treatment of any eye conditions.