What are Cataracts?
Inside the eye there is a clear lens which allows light to pass through and focus on the retina, in order for you to see. A progressive clouding of this lens is known as a cataract. As the lens becomes hazy, it impacts the ability of light to pass through, which affects your vision.
What Causes Cataracts?
Cataracts can be caused by a number of different things:
- Aging- most people over the age of 65 will show signs of cataracts.
- Extended exposure to UV light (not wearing sunglasses!). Australia has a much higher UV level than many other countries due to our thinner ozone layer. Additionally, in developing countries where sun protection is uncommon or unheard of, the incidence of cataracts is higher.
- Trauma or surgery to the eye
- Certain medications
- Medical complications during pregnancy- in rare conditions, a baby may be born with cataracts if the mother contracts rubella during pregnancy.
How Do I Know if I Have Cataracts?
Having regular eye examinations with your optometrist will tell if you have cataracts or not. Typical signs of cataract development include:
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Sensitivity to glare, both during the day and whilst driving at night.
- A change in vision.
- A milky haze over your eyes
Vision loss due to cataracts occurs very gradually- which means it’s almost impossible for you to detect. That’s why after 65, we recommend yearly eye exams to monitor for any subtle vision changes.
Will My Cataracts Get Worse?
Typically yes. With time, the clouded area in the lens become bigger and more dense, which impacts vision more and more. Cataracts can develop at different rates in each eye and progresses quicker for different people. Having regular eye examinations is important to monitor the cataracts, and will help your optometrist determine when it’s time to have them removed. At Optometrist Parramatta, we use digital retinal photography to accurately monitor the development of your cataracts.
Can I Prevent or Slow Down Cataracts?
As cataracts are typically caused by aging and long-term UV exposure, there is no sure-fire way to prevent cataracts developing. Minimise UV exposure (particularly in high UV areas such as Australia) by always wearing sunglasses when outside.
How Are Cataracts Treated?
When cataracts begin to affect everyday tasks such as night driving, your Optometrist may suggest you undergo a cataract operation and refer you to an ophthalmologist. In most cases, cataract surgery is a minor procedure performed under local anaesthetic where the cloudy lens is removed and a new lens inserted. Patients often go home on the same day. After the surgery vision is usually remarkably improved.
After cataract surgery, your vision will be markedly improved. Many patients find they no longer need glasses to see, or that they only need a pair of reading glasses to help with fine tasks.
Can Cataracts Come Back After Surgery?
No. The artificial lens that is inserted into the eye cannot go cloudy. However, sometimes your ophthalmologist may need to perform a quick laser procedure a few months after the cataract surgery to tweak your vision.