As the most common cause of impaired vision throughout the world, cataracts are a problem many of us may have to face one day. Although they are potentially capable of causing blindness, cataracts can be easily dealt with, and like so many medical issues, the key to successful treatment is recognising the symptoms as early as possible.
Situated behind the coloured part of your eye, the lens is a clear piece of tissue, through which light passes. Cataracts are hazy patches in the lens, which block daylight in a similar way to clouds blocking sunlight. Eventually, the lens will become so misty that light can filter through but it
becomes impossible to focus on detail, and the cloudier the lens becomes, the more your eyesight will be impaired.
Although they can be present in newborn babies, cataracts are more usually associated with the older generations and they are equally common in men and women.
Because of their gradual development, it can take years for a person to notice the deterioration in their vision. Using an instrument called an ophthalmoscope, which directs a bright light through the lens of each eye and picks up the telltale cloudiness, your optometrist will be able to detect them during a routine eye examination, which is why regular checks are important.
Cataracts often develop in both eyes, but at different rates of progression. Particular indicators about the onset of problems include difficulty seeing in very dim or bright conditions, discomfort when facing towards strong light, a washing-out of colours and problems focusing on written
words or a TV picture. Other symptoms can include halos around light sources and double vision, although these are comparatively rare side effects. Although experts are uncertain about the exact cause of cataracts, there are measures you can take to reduce the risk of them developing. A healthy balanced diet is one key factor in helping to avoid cataracts, as is not smoking. Wearing sunglasses or a wide-brimmed or peaked cap can also make a big difference, since they protect the eyes from having to filter out the damaging UV rays of harsh sunlight.
If you do develop cataracts, medical treatment involves a small operation, usually under local anaesthetic as an outpatient. With liquid drops helping to dilate the pupil, a surgeon breaks down the lens into tiny pieces using ultrasound before those fragments are sucked out through a small incision in the cornea. A bespoke artificial lens is then inserted, designed to remain in place permanently. It's frequently possible to go home almost as soon as surgery is over, and recuperation should be straightforward.
If you are not sure you have cataracts or you would like a general eye health examination call us on 01268 544646 to book an appointment.