Cataracts - The main cause of impaired vision worldwide

Cataracts - The main cause of impaired vision worldwide

From around the middle of the sixteenth century, the term cataract has been applied to the medical condition in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively opaque. An apt simile would be something that stops light entering the eye, or another outdated expression for the same condition is web in the eye.

The importance of the health of your eyes cannot be overstated, 80 % of what we perceive comes through our sense of sight.  Cataracts are the main cause of impaired vision worldwide; either over a period of time or rapidly your vision becomes clouded, blurred or seemingly dimmed. Night vision might become an issue and your eyes seem overly sensitive to light. 

What’s the cause?

Cataracts are a function of aging and typically develop over a span of years, it's a relatively slow process, however some types of cataracts may develop faster, such as in individuals with diabetes. Put in layman’s terms, cataracts are caused by a build-up of protein that clouds the eye’s lens. 

What are the different types?

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There are different types of cataracts, depending on which part of the eye’s lens is affected, they can affect the centre, the sides, or the back of the lens. They can appear in just one eye or in both eyes, however, in most instances they may not develop at the same rate in each eye. Since no pain or redness is normally experienced with cataracts, symptoms to note are hazy/blurred vision, a ‘film over the eyes’ or small spots or patches where vision is less clear. 

Are you at risk?

Although no direct link has been established for the development of cataracts, reasons such as age, genetics’, disease or damage to the eye has been suggested as the trigger for the chemical change inside the eye which turns the lens cloudy resulting in cataracts. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation present in sunlight, cigarette smoke or the use of certain medications is understood to increase the risk for the development of cataracts.

What preventative measures can you take?

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Currently, there is no proven method to prevent cataracts from forming. A diet rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C, E, zinc and magnesium can be beneficial.  Harmful UV rays can speed up cataract formation so wearing a pair of polarized sunglasses is also recommended.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

A comprehensive eye examination can determine if you have a cataract forming.

What is the treatment?

It depends how developed the cataract is, your optometrist can sometimes prescribe new lenses to assist you with sharper vision. When this is no longer a workable solution, you will be referred to an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) who may recommend the surgical removal of the cataracts. 

Fortunately, when it comes to our vision prevention is better than cure, routine eye examinations are an important part of preventative healthcare.  You will reduce the odds of blindness and vision loss while also staying on top of any developing eye diseases such as cataracts and glaucoma.

Here is to better vision!

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