Did you know that cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss in older people? The good news is this common condition is easily treatable once detected. Let’s take a detailed look at cataract symptoms, causes and prevention.
What are cataracts?
Cataracts are cloudy patches that develop in the lens of the eye. They develop slowly over time, so older people are much more likely to be affected. The longer they are left to develop, the more severely cataracts can affect the clarity of your vision. If left untreated, cataracts can eventually result in blindness.
Cataract symptoms will worsen over time. You are likely to begin by experiencing cloudy or misty vision, as if everything is blurred. Unlike hypermetropia or myopia, where distance plays a part in how well you can see, with cataracts you will experience this blurred quality no matter how near or far away the objects that you are looking at.
Other cataract symptoms may include:
- Glare, or sensitivity to light
- Double vision
- Changes to your colour vision (colours may appear faded)
Cataracts are not painful, but it is important to get your eyes checked as soon as you begin to experience any of these symptoms. By getting seen sooner rather than later, you can limit the impact that cataracts will have on your vision.
Causes of cataracts
We don’t yet fully understand what causes cataracts, but there are a few risk factors that seem to make it more likely. The biggest of these are your age (older people are more likely to develop cataracts) and your genetic inheritance (if it runs in your family, you might be predisposed to suffer from the condition) but there’s not much you can do about these!
Other, more controllable cataract causes include:
- Exposure to UV rays
- Alcohol consumption
- Use of steroids
- Previous eye injuries
There’s no guarantee that you will be able to prevent cataracts, which are extremely common in people over 60. But cataract causes and prevention are closely linked; there are a few things that you can do to reduce your chances of developing the condition, by addressing the risk factors associated with cataracts.
- Give up smoking
- Protect your eyes from bright sunlight with UV protective sunglasses
- Take care to drink alcohol in moderation
- Keep diabetes under control with a healthy diet, exercise and medication if prescribed
If these preventative measures come to nothing and you do develop cataracts, they can be easily treated with cataract surgery. This is a simple procedure that involves removing the cataract and inserting an artificial IOL (intraocular lens) to replace the natural lens. Each eye is treated separately, with a period of 1-2 weeks in between operations, but the procedure itself is very quick, lasting only 10-15 minutes.
An expert in cataract symptoms, causes and prevention, Allon Barsam has also pioneered femtosecond laser cataract surgery, a new type of bladeless cataract surgery that is even more efficient and effective than the traditional treatment.