Cataracts of the Eye

A cataract occurs when the eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy. The lens is situated behind the iris (coloured part of the eye). The lens works just as a camera lens works. It focuses light coming through the eye onto the retina. It also changes shape, adjusting focus, allowing us to see clearly from near to far.

As we get older small areas of the lens starts to become cloudy, preventing light from going through to the retina. With time larger areas of the lens become cloudy making it more difficult to see.

Signs and Symptoms of Cataracts

In the initial stages, cataracts may have little effect on your vision. As it grows, you may notice your vision become a little hazy, like looking through a misty window. Sunlight and indoor lighting looks a little brighter than normal. Night driving becomes difficult as oncoming headlights cause a lot of glare. Also, colours are not as bright as they were before.

Some types of cataracts don’t cause any symptoms until it is quite mature. Other cataract types sometimes result in an improvement in your near vision, called “second sight”. This improvement is short lived as your vision deteriorates as the cataract grows.

If you think you have a cataract, visit your optometrist or ophthalmologist for an exam to find out for sure.

Causes of Cataracts

  • The most common cause of cataracts is ageing.
  • Exposure to ultraviolet light. Optometrists always recommend the use of sunglasses to minimize your eye’s exposure to the sun
  • Other types of radiation

  • Diabetics. Being diabetic increases your risk of developing cataracts.
  • Using steroids
  • Eating a lot of salt. Diets high in antioxidants, vitamins A, C and E may slow down cataract development.
  • Cigarette smoke and alcohol consumption.

Treatment of Cataracts

In the initial stages a change in your spectacle prescription may improve your vision. As the cataract grows, the only option is surgery. Surgery is normally recommended when the cataract has grown to a point where it significantly impairs your vision and affects your daily life.

Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring your vision and it is relatively painless. During surgery, the surgeon removes the cloudy lens (cataract) and replaces it with an intra ocular lens (artificial lens). If you have cataracts in both eyes the surgery is done one eye at a time, usually a few weeks apart.

After surgery, the eye is covered with a protective shield and within a few hours you will be ready to go home. You will need someone to drive you.

Over the next few weeks you will need to administer eye drops daily and wear sunglasses to protect you from glare. You may have slightly blurry vision which will improve as the eye heals.

During the first few weeks try to avoid any heavy lifting or strenuous activity like exercise. Also, try to avoid swimming pools and hot tubs as they can cause serious eye infections.

Complications during or after cataract surgery is , but sometimes does happen. However, even serious complications can be resolved with appropriate follow up treatments.

Many people consider poor vision an inevitable fact of ageing, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure to regain vision.

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