Learn more about Cataracts, including The Symptoms, The Causes, and The Treatments.
Cataracts are when the lens (the lens sits behind the iris, the coloured part of eyes) in the middle of the eyes becomes cloudy and misty over time. Cataracts are NOT a film that grows across the eyes. The formation of cataracts is usually a very slow process; this generally occurs, as we get older and is painless. Everyone will get cataracts at some point in their mature life.
At the very early stages of cataracts they usually don’t affect your sight. However with time the cataracts become more pronounced, usually a dark yellow to brown colour. At this stage patients tend to experience hazy vision, glare and simple everyday activities become difficult, like reading and watching television. We advise you to have a regular annual eye test to monitor for cataracts or the progression of cataracts.
• Misting or clouding of your vision, that cannot be cleared by blinking
• The feeling that your glasses are constantly misty or smeary, but they are actually clean
• Sensitivity to bright lights
• Colours look duller
• More yellowing of colours
• Vision feels more blurry than before
• Bright lights are more dazzling or you experience more glare
• More difficulty with night driving
• Frequent prescription changes in your glasses
• Double vision in one of your eyes
• Difficulty in seeing small print
• Difficulty in recognising something until you move closer to it
Causes and Risk factors
• Aging, the eyes age too, most people will develop cataracts, as they get older. Most people develop cataracts after the age of 60, however some people can develop cataracts as early as their late 40’s. Usually both eyes will develop cataracts together.
• Injury or trauma to the eyes can cause the development of cataracts
• Invasive surgery to the eyes can cause cataracts at some point
• Medication such as steroids can also cause cataracts
• Diabetic patients tend develop cataracts earlier
• Other eye conditions such glaucoma, uveitis, hereditary retinal dystrophies can cause cataracts
• High myopia or high levels of short sightedness may cause cataracts
• Congenital cataracts – cataracts from birth
• UV light, over exposure or not wearing sunglasses in sunlight
• High blood pressure
• Excessive alcohol consumption
Can I help slow the deterioration of cataracts?
There are a number of ways to slow down the progression of cataracts, such as; a healthy diet, stricter control of your diabetes, manage any health problems, avoiding eye injuries, stop smoking, reduce alcohol consumption and wearing sunglasses with UV protection. Polarised sunglasses in particular not only help with the cataracts and protect you from UV exposure but they also reduce glare. No proof has been shown from taking any form of supplements to prevent or cure cataracts.
The only treatment for advanced cataract is surgery. Before you balk in panic be assured the surgery has progressed significantly and only lasts 20-30 minutes. Surgery is considered when cataracts start to affect your vision or your lifestyle, not when they are ripe! Surgery is usually done one eye at a time.
Throughout this surgery, patients are generally awake, if you are jittery or tend to worry, it is best to mention this to the Ophthalmologist on your first appointment; a mild sedative can be given on the day of the surgery to put you at ease. The surgery does not require an overnight stay but it will take up at least half of the day. It is best to bring someone with you as your pupils will be dilated and after surgery you will want to be relaxed and not worry yourself about how you will be getting home.
Whilst you will be awake throughout the surgery your eye will be numbed using eye drops, there are no needles or injections involved. A bright light will be shone over your face so you will not see any scary devices coming towards you but you will be able to hear the Ophthalmologists talking about what they are doing. The cataract is removed using a very thin ‘tubular’ like device via a small incision where the coloured part of eye (iris) meets the white of the eye. You will not feel pain but may feel the Ophthalmologist’s hand resting on your face. The cataract is then broken into small pieces and cleared away; a new clear lens is then placed where the old (cataract) lens used to be.
Once the surgery has finished, the Ophthalmologist will give you two types of drops or a combined drop to use. These are usually steroids to control any inflammation and an antibiotic to stop infection. Your drops will have to be put into the eye at regular intervals for up to 4 weeks. Towards the end of the 4 weeks, you will have a follow-up appointment with the Ophthalmologist to check the positioning of the new lens and healing of the eye. You should carry on with normal daytime activities but avoid any strenuous exercise or dusty environments.
Once you have been given the all clear it will be time for you to visit your Opticians to have your eyes checked to see if you need any glasses.
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