A Closer Look at Cataracts
What are cataracts, and how are they caused?
Contrary to popular belief, a cataract is not a film over the surface of the eye. It is, in fact, a build-up of protein inside the eye’s lens. Recent studies indicate that cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Cataracts are most commonly associated with the aging process, but a variety of other contributing factors exist, including family history, arthritis, diabetes, smoking, exposure to sunlight, trauma or injury to the eye, short sightedness and even some medications.
In a healthy, normal eye, the lens focusses light precisely on the retina. A cataract-affected lens will instead scatter light on the retina, leading to a wide range of vision problems.
What are the signs and symptoms of cataracts?
Cataracts can cause a variety of vision and optical issues, including:
- Blurred vision
- Glare, or increased sensitivity to light
- Colours that appear dull or faded
- Poor night vision
- Double vision
- The appearance of halos around lights
- Spots in the visual field
- Requiring brighter lighting to read
At first the signs of cataracts may cause only slight inconvenience, and may be improved or alleviated by stronger lens prescriptions or brighter lighting. However, if left untreated, cataracts will thicken over time and can lead to serious and, in many cases, permanent damage.
This video explains a little more about how cataracts affect your eyesight:
Can I prevent cataracts?
Whilst the precise cause of cataracts is as yet unknown, there are a number of steps that can be taken to reduce your risk of developing cataracts. These include:
- Having regular eye exams
- Not smoking
- Taking care of existing health problems that may contribute to cataract development
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Eating a diet rich in vitamins and nutrients
How are cataracts treated?
Whilst there are steps you can take to lower your chances of developing cataracts, they’re unfortunately not guaranteed. The good news is that cataracts are easily treated- in fact, cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures performed around the world today.
For more information, see our pages on cataract treatment options.