Cataracts usually develop in those over 55

Due to changes in overnight weather, my home town was covered in a heavy fog that limited vision to less than a few metres. Well-known streets and landmarks that allowed me to know exactly how far I had run were barely visible.

The street lights, although on, were distorted and at times unable to penetrate the pea soup I found myself in. I found myself slowing to a walking pace for what seemed like approaching UFOs, as motor vehicles finding themselves in a similar dilemma, safely passed.

As I headed to the shower I realised I had a greater understanding of what of my patients with cataracts experience.

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Surgical advances have resulted in surgery that is a much more straightforward day procedure that really allows patients to see clearly – like the fog lifting!

Loss of Vision

Optometrists are often the first person someone will see about their loss of vision, clarity, issues with colours, trouble driving at night, double vision, problems with glare or significant changes in prescription.

Cataracts, typically in people over the age of 55, develop on the lens (that sits just behind our iris) as a small mass of dead/damaged cells that slowly increase in number. The increasing mass reduces the amount of light that can transfer through the eye to the retina, reducing vision.

In most cases, patients with the right glasses prescription find they generally manage quite well. Those with cataracts are likely to require a surgical procedure to remove the now hazy lens and replace it with an artificial lens. The artificial lens vastly improves patient’s vision and the strength of the prescription for glasses is often reduced.

Patients who have diabetes are more at risk of developing secondary cataracts. It is recommended that patients at risk of cataracts limit or quit smoking and decrease their alcohol consumption to reduce the onset of cataracts developing.

Trauma to the eye can cause the development of cataracts and in some cases children can develop cataracts from infection, and in a small number of cases are born with congenital cataracts.

Cataracts, like fog, upset how we see and interpret visual information. With a prescription correction seeing is possible with cataracts and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can reduce cataract progression.