A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. The lens becomes hardened, and gradually the person will experience a decrease in vision.
Most cataracts develop as part of the common ageing process. Cataracts tend to affect people aged over 65, but the age of onset can vary. Some people aren’t affected until well into their 70s, while some develop cataracts at an earlier age. By the age of 80 most of us will have some degree of cataract formation.
Other risk factors include long-term exposure to sunlight, smoking, diabetes and family history.
People may not notice any changes early on, but as the cataracts progress they start to experience vision problems such as clouded, blurred or dim vision. These are the most common symptoms of cataracts.
Often people describe the quality of their vision as like looking through a dirty window. One of the other common signs is a sensitivity to glare, especially on a bright sunny day or when driving at night on artificially lit roads. Frequent changes in glasses or contact lens prescriptions can also be a sign of cataracts.
A change to your glasses prescription may help to keep cataract symptoms at bay. But the most effective treatment in the long term is to have cataracts surgically removed.
The procedure is 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.
There is little you can do to prevent the formation of cataracts. However, wearing a good pair of sunglasses while outside may help prevent or delay the onset of cataracts. Smoking is also a risk factor so quitting smoking may to help to preserve your vision.
Regular eye tests with your optometrist, especially for those over the age of 65, can help with early detection and treatment of any eye conditions.