If you are nearing your 65th birthday and have spent many enjoyable hours in the sun, there is a 57% chance that you will develop a cataract. It is further estimated that an additional 20% of the population will develop cataracts by the time they celebrate their 70th birthday. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide and in South Africa more than 50% of blindness is caused by this condition. However, the good news is that cataract blindness is preventable and curable.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is formed when the lens (the transparent tissue within the eye that helps bring rays of light to focus on the retina) becomes clouded or opaque. Because of the opacity (cataract), the normal path of the light entering the eye becomes obscured and may lead to vision loss and even blindness.
- Exposure to excessive sunlight
- The use of certain types of medication such as high dose steroids
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Eye Trauma
- A gradual blurring of vision which cannot be corrected with glasses
- A change in the eye’s refractive error towards near sightedness
- Sensitivity to light
- Halos around lights and double vision
- Worsening of colour vision
How is it diagnosed?
Cataracts are usually diagnosed either through a clinical examination which includes an Ophthalmoscope or Slit lamp.
What treatments are available?
Cataract surgery is done when the patient’s vision is at stake or his/her quality of life is compromised due to vision loss. A patient can be diagnosed with an early cataract which does not affect the vision at all and therefore it does not need to be removed immediately.
There are no medication or eye drops that will cause cataracts to disappear. When you are unable to do things you like doing, or you are unable to pass your driver’s license exam, cataract surgery should be considered.
Cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision.
Tip of the Month: How to Prevent Cataracts
- If you are older than 60 years, you should have an eye examination at least once every two years.
- Wear sunglasses or tinted prescription eye glasses to protect your eyes from the sun.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim whenever you are out in the sun to minimise your eyes’ exposure to the sun.
- Eat balanced and nutritious meals regularly.
- Stop Smoking
Written by: Chantell Bothma
Optometrist (071) 211 8255