A cataract refers to the fogging of the crystalline lens within your eye. Much like a focussing lens in a camera, this crystalline lens in the eye is normally transparent and clear, but may become cloudy with age. This occurs due to the packing of oxidised proteins in the eye. It is slowly progressing and a completely normal aging process that causes the disruption of the transmission of light to the back of the eye. Cataracts can develop in one or both eyes, but are not contagious.
Cataracts are very common over the age of 60, through small cataracts do develop earlier and go relatively unnoticed. The causes of cataracts are usually a long history of UV exposure, smoking, diabetes, family history, drug use, as well as old age. A cataract has symptoms such as glare and light sensitivity, blurring of vision even with spectacle correction, poor night vision, and perhaps even a change in colour perception. If you start to experience any of these symptoms, it is important that you schedule an eye appointment with your optometrist, as a cataract may affect everyday activity, such as reading, driving, or near work.
In the case of a small cataract with mild symptoms, regular check ups and updated spectacle glasses are advisable to correct your vision. Brighter lighting, polarised sunglasses and magnified eyeglasses may also be options to help with vision. However, if the cataract does seriously affect one’s vision and ability to continue day-to-day, then they can be recommended for cataract surgery with a referral to the ophthalmologist. Cataract surgery, called phacoemulsification, is relatively painless and quick (taking only 30 minutes). It involves removing the cloudy lens from the eye and replacing it with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). Although this procedure is entirely optional and not compulsory in any case, some patients with cataracts do report a transformative change in their sight and ability to function in everyday life. A concise video about phacoemulsification can be viewed here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xJivTGL7eA
Cataracts are part of the normal aging process. Most individuals will have some form of cataract by age 60, and may or may not experience symptoms from it. To protect one’s eyes from early cataract, it is advised to minimise exposure to direct sunlight where the UV rays are a risk factor for cataracts. This can include wearing sunglasses with 100% UV protection, and a wide brimmed hat. Additionally, avoiding smoking and engaging in a healthy and balanced diet is beneficial. Some recommended foods include:
- Green leafy vegetables for antioxidants
- Oily fish for omega-3 fatty acids
- Citrus fruits for vitamin C
- Nuts for vitamin E
- Carrots for vitamin A and beta-carotene.
To see one of our optometrists for an eye examination or to find out more, contact us on 9728 7288.