Clouding of the natural lens of the eye is called cataract, and is part of the ageing process. In fact, most people in their sixties have some amount of cataract, which may or may not be causing any symptoms. Most cataracts progress gradually and painlessly, and eventually interfere with vision. This article will discuss the common symptoms and signs of cataract. In case you think you have cataract, the best thing to do is to schedule a comprehensive eye check with your ophthalmologist.
Symptoms and signs of cataracts include:
Cloudy, blurred or decrease in vision which is painless and progressive
Increasing difficulty with vision at night and under low ambient light
Sensitivity to light, photophobia and glare, difficulty in night time driving
Inability to read in “normal” or dim light light
Coloured haloes around incandescent lights
Frequent changes in power/ prescription of spectacles
Decreased colour saturation: colours appear faded or yellowish
Double vision or blurred images, ghost images or shadows
It is important to remember that cataracts can be completely asymptomatic and these can only be detected on clinical examination. Also, the visual discomfort felt by any individual depends on their personal expectations and vision needs.
What should I do if I have symptoms and signs of cataracts?
If you think you have symptoms and signs of cataract, the first thing to do is to schedule a visit to your eye doctor, to rule out any other causes which can have the same symptoms. Cataract signs and symptoms can be mimicked by glaucoma and Age Related Macular Degeneration; both these diseases also affect the elderly, and can potentially cause irreversible damage to vision.
In case your eye doctor confirms that your symptoms and signs are due to cataract, here is what you can do to help your quality of life improve.
Wear the correct prescription of glasses. Your eye doctor will recommend glasses or contact lenses in case they help you see better.
Using brighter, focussed lighting during reading and near work may make everyday tasks easier.
In case your symptoms and signs of cataract are such that they interfere with your day to day activities, your doctor will discuss the risks and benefits of cataract surgery with you.
Remember the only known treatment of cataract is surgery, and no drops or medicines can help reverse cataract. However, the timing of surgery is decided by your symptoms and signs.
What are the risk factors for cataract formation and progression?
Factors that increase your risk of cataracts include:
Increasing age, since cataract formation is a natural process of ageing
Diabetes, especially uncontrolled blood sugars
Smoking increases incidence and progression of cataract
Previous eye injury, including previous eye surgery, eye injections etc.
Prolonged eye inflammation, for example uvetis
Prolonged use of corticosteroids, oral or eye drops
Exposure to UV radiation
What are the steps for prevention of cataract?
The following steps may prevent cataract formation, or at least slow down its progression.
Control your blood sugars.
Make sure your diet is healthy and balanced with enough antioxidants and micronutrients.
Use sunglasses that completely block off UV radiation to decrease exposure to radiation.