Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness. Estimates suggest that around half of people aged 75-85 have experienced some vision loss due to cataracts. Primarily a condition that affects the older generation, it can come on as early as your 40s. Rare cases of cataracts have also been seen in young children and even babies at birth.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding, or misting, of the lens of your eye. As we get older proteins in the eye lens begin to break down, and this is what creates the clouding. More than 300,000 procedures are carried out each year in the UK, making it the most common operation of any specialty performed in the country.
Signs and symptoms:
Factors that may increase the risk of cataracts include aging, smoking, obesity, family history, high blood pressure and too much UV light (sun) exposure.
The things to look out for to determine cataracts include:
- A decrease in the clarity of vision. Clouding is the most common symptom.
- Sensitivity to light and especially glare. As the clouding affects your natural lens, it can no longer reflect light and images to your retina.
- The onset of double vision
- Night vision. Not being able to see in the dark as well as you used to, this tends to be spotted whilst driving out in the dark.
- Your vision is deteriorating and glasses are no longer correcting it.
- Dismissed symptoms that often go unnoticed include colours begin to appear faded or washed out.
There are 4 main reasons why a cataract may develop:
- Age-related: this is the most common kind of cataract. Based on the location in the eye there are three subclassifications: nuclear, cortical, and posterior subcapsular.
- Congenital: although it is very rare, some babies can be born with cataracts. This classification of cataracts also relates to young babies who develop cataracts within the first year of life.
- Traumatic: this type of cataract results from a direct injury to the eye.
- Secondary: caused either as a result of medication or a disease, such as diabetes. Cataracts are 10 times more common in diabetic patients than in the general population.
There is no preventative method of cataracts, but there are ways to protect your eyes and slow the progression of the disease. The good news is that it is almost always treatable.
Once the cataract has formed the only treatment is surgical removal, a 10-15 minute procedure, and then replacement with an artificial lens. This lens is known as an intraocular lens – often shortened to IOL. The artificial lens is made of plastic or silicone, and will not need to be changed for the rest of your life.
A cataract is not caused by overuse of your eyes, and cannot travel from one eye to the other. For more information about cataract surgery visit our website, or if you would like to discuss your concerns, book your free consultation with Focus and call us on 0207 307 8250.