Cataracts – act early, know the signs
Tuesday 4 July 2017
Unfortunately, developing cataracts is a normal part of getting older. In the UK, most people who are aged 65 or older have some degree of visual impairment caused by cataracts¹. So it’s important to know the signs of cataracts so that you can seek early treatment and improve the quality of your life and vision.
What are cataracts?
Inside each of your eyes, you have a lens that sits just behind your iris (the coloured part of your eye). The lens bends (refracts) light rays as they enter your eye to help you focus and see.
Your lens should be clear but if you have a cataract then your lens will have become cloudy. Cataracts can affect one or both of your eyes. This cloudy lens causes blurry, misty or less colourful vision. It can be likened to looking through dusty sunglasses.
What causes cataracts?
If you have cataracts your lens becomes cloudy due to the build-up of protein cells in your lens that are clumping together. Your lens slowly changes to a yellowish/brownish colour and adds a brownish tint to your vision.
Cataracts tend to progress slowly over many years and they are a normal part of ageing, often known as age-related cataracts. Most often people develop cataracts after the age of 65, but some may develop them earlier.
There are some factors that make it more likely that you’ll develop cataracts, including: diabetes, smoking, UV exposure, eye injury, some medications, eye surgery and high myopia (very short sightedness).
What are the symptoms?
Because cataracts don’t happen overnight and deterioration is progressive, you may not detect any changes in your vision or signs that you have a cataract at first, but as they start to get worse you may notice a number of symptoms. These include:
Things may seem blurry or cloudy. Poor night vision that makes some night time activities, such as driving, more difficult. Sensitivity to the glare of bright lights such as bright sunlight or car headlamps. Halos around light sources, sometimes in a variety of colours. Frequently needing stronger prescription glasses or contacts. Colours look more faded, washed out and yellow tinted. Double vision in one eye where you see two or more images of a single object. Feeling like your glasses are dirty and need cleaning but they are clean and dirt-free.
These symptoms may also be a sign of other eye problems. It’s best to see an eye care professional if you have any of these symptoms.
Cataracts can be identified early on by an eye care professional so it’s recommended you book regular eye sight appointments for an early diagnosis.
Why it’s important to act early
Some cataracts will stop progressing after a certain point, others will continue to develop. However, cataracts are never reversible and can compromise your lifestyle including your ability to read, drive and perform daily activities.
It’s important to see an eye care specialist if you suspect you have cataracts so that they can perform an assessment and diagnosis. They can then recommend the best course of treatment for you that will allow you to see more clearly again.
If left, advanced cataracts carry more risk of complications during their surgical removal and they may even lead to blindness.
Treatment of cataracts
Early cataracts may be managed by trying stronger prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, using a magnifying glass when reading, better and bright lighting, and medication to dilate your pupils.
However, cataracts will never go on their own. If they continue to grow, then cataract surgery will be recommended. Surgery is the only treatment for cataracts and is a very common and straightforward day case procedure.
During cataract surgery your cataracts are removed and you will have a replacement lens inserted into your eye.
Cataract treatment at North Downs Hospital
Here at North Downs Hospital we work alongside highly skilled consultant ophthalmology surgeons to provide comprehensive eye tests and the latest eye treatments for people suffering with cataracts and other eye conditions. They regularly perform cataract surgery and offer rapid access to local and convenient appointments for all patients.
Call us on 01883 348981 or contact us for more information or to book an appointment with an ophthalmology consultant at North Downs Hospital.