Cataracts: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention
What Are Cataracts?
A cataract is when the eye lens becomes cloudy. It’s a common problem that often develops in later life, and while it can start out as a minor ailment, it is likely to gradually worsen over time. Prescription glasses for cataracts can help in the early stages, but surgery is often required later. Cataract surgery involves removing the eye lens, and while it may sound daunting, it’s a very common procedure with a high success rate.
There are many symptoms of cataracts, of which you should take note. These include:
- Blurred vision - where it is difficult to focus when reading or looking at objects close by
- Sensitivity to glare (for example, from headlights)
- Bright colours seem dull and less vibrant than usual
- When more light is needed for close-up activities such as sewing or reading
Cataracts are sometimes misunderstood as growths or tumours, however this is not the case and many cataracts can’t even be seen by the naked eye.
What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts are often associated with ageing, usually occurring in people over 40. The eye lens is made up of proteins, and when these proteins start to clump together, cataracts are formed.
Besides ageing, there are other causes of cataracts, which include:
- Eye injury and/or surgery
- High alcohol consumption
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT)
- High exposure to ultraviolet light (for example, from the sun)
- Poor nutrition and smoking can also lead to an increased risk of cataracts
Preventing And Curing Cataracts
In terms of prevention, cataracts are a natural side effect of getting older, however, living a healthy lifestyle can help. Your diet can improve your chances of avoiding cataracts, but isn’t a guarantee. However, eating a balanced diet is beneficial, including plenty of healthy omega-3 oils from oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds and leafy vegetables. An increased vitamin E intake - from cereals, nuts and seeds for example - may help.
Besides your diet, protecting your eyes from the sun is also helpful in preventing or at least slowing down the onset of cataracts. Photochromic lenses are useful if you’ve got a job that takes you outdoors in the sun or having a UV coating on your lenses can block harmful UV rays.
Medical professionals also recommend giving up smoking, which can help reduce the onset of cataracts.
However, the best way to maintain good eye health is to have regular eye exams with an optometrist.
A permanent cure is surgery, which is common, quick and predominantly uncomplicated thanks to advancements in medical technology. It involves removing the clouded eye lens (the cataract) and replacing it with a plastic insert called an intraocular lens. Patients can sometimes experience an improvement immediately, but for others it may take up to a month until they have full vision again.
A doctor will issue aftercare advice following cataract treatment, but it often involves using eye drops, wearing a protective eye shield at night and avoiding rubbing the eyes.
Post Surgery Vision Requirements
In some cases, patients may experience sensitivity to light, especially when using computer screens or watching TV, so computer glasses like Eyezen® can help soothe the eyes and provide comfortable vision.
Think you might have cataracts?
Visit your nearest optometrist for an eye exam today.