Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over age 40 and is the principal cause of blindness in the world. In fact, there are more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined, according to Prevent Blindness America (PBA).
So, what exactly is a cataract?
A cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil.
For people who have cataracts, seeing through cloudy lenses is a bit like looking through a frosty or fogged-up window. Clouded vision caused by cataracts can make it more difficult to read, drive a car (especially at night) or colours may not appear as bright as they once did.
Most cataracts develop slowly and don’t disturb your eyesight early on. But with time, cataracts will eventually interfere with your vision.
What causes a cataract?
The lens inside the eye works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina for clear vision. It also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly at distance and near.
The lens is made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. The problem is, as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. This is a cataract, and over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see.
The risk factors for developing a cataract:
No one knows for sure why the eye’s lens changes as we age, forming cataracts. But researchers worldwide have identified factors that may cause cataracts. Besides advancing age, cataract risk factors include:
- Ultraviolet radiation from the sun
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Previous eye injury or inflammation
- Previous eye surgery
- Long-term use of steroid medications
- Family history
Though there is significant controversy about whether cataracts can be prevented, doctors do think these several strategies may be helpful:
- Have regular eye examinations. Eye examinations can help detect cataracts and other eye problems at their earliest stages.
- Quit smoking.
- Manage other health problems. Follow your treatment plan if you have diabetes or other medical conditions that can increase your risk of cataracts.
- Choose a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Adding a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables to your diet ensures that you’re getting many vitamins and nutrients. Fruits and vegetables have many antioxidants, which help maintain the health of your eyes.
- Wear sunglasses. Ultraviolet light from the sun may contribute to the development of cataracts. Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet B (UVB) rays when you’re outdoors.
- Reduce alcohol use. Excessive alcohol use can increase the risk of cataracts.
When the cataract starts to decrease your vision and spectacles can’t improve your vision anymore, you will need to consider eye surgery.
Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision.
Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision. Nine out of 10 people who have cataract surgery regain very good vision, somewhere between 6/6 and 6/12.
During surgery, the surgeon will remove your clouded lens and, in most cases, replace it with a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL).
Eyewear after cataract surgery
In most cases, you will still need reading glasses after cataract surgery and a good pair of sunglasses. You may also need progressive lenses to correct mild residual refractive errors.
So don’t hesitate, book your appointment now with Elizma or Belia to find out about the best options to look after your eyes.