Cataracts are cloudy patches within the lens of your eye. They are a common condition, but become more common as you age. Most people will experience cataracts by the age of seventy.
Exposure to sunlight, a history of cataracts in your family, diabetes and other medical conditions can also increase your chances of developing cataracts. Age-related cataracts are also made more likely through smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, vitamin deficiency, or taking prescription steroids for a prolonged period of time.
What are the symptoms?
The only symptoms of cataracts are clouding of the lens – they are not painful and do not cause redness or irritation. The clouding can be experienced through blurred or misty eyesight, or patches of your sight which are less clear. You may also experience particular difficulty seeing in very bright or very dim light, faded colours, a yellow or brown tinge to your vision, or double vision. Bright lights may cause you discomfort, and may appear dazzling or with a halo around them.
Cataracts usually develop over a number of years, with the clouding becoming more and more noticeable over time. If you are a glasses wearer, you will also notice them becoming less and less effective.
How are cataracts treated?
Cataracts will initially be remedied through stronger prescription glasses and advising the use of brighter lights to aid your vision. If your vision is deemed to be seriously affecting daily activities, such as reading, driving and watching TV, then surgery may be required. This involves the cloudy lens being removed from your eye and a clear plastic lens being inserted in its place.
The surgery is usually carried out under local anaesthetic and patients can often return home the same day. Your vision will take a few days to “settle,” and you can normally return to your usual activities in a couple of weeks. Whilst your vision will be clearer, you may still be required to wear glasses to correct either your near or distant vision.