Cataracts are one of the most common causes of visual loss, most commonly associated with natural age-related changes in the eye. When we are young, the lens inside the eye is clear like glass. As we age, the lens begins to develop cloudy patches and opacities, causing vision to become misty or cloudy like frosted glass. Over time, as the cloudiness worsens, the vision becomes more and more limited and this is then classed as a Cataract.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF CATARACTS?
Cataracts are most commonly the result of age-related changes within the lens in the eye, however they can occur for other reasons: –
- Congenital – in a small number of cases they can be present from birth.
- Trauma – cataract can develop as the result of damage to the eye.
- UV exposure – prolonged exposure to damaging UV radiation can accelerate the onset of cataracts.
- Medications – long term use of steroids can increase the likelihood of developing cataracts.
- Smoking & alcohol abuse
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
In the very early stages of the Cataract, patients may not notice any real symptoms. Vision may appear slightly more blurred than before. However, as the cataract worsens the symptoms will become more noticeable. Patients may experience: –
- Vision becoming increasingly blurred and misty.
- Uncomfortable glare when in bright light conditions.
- Problems with contrast and seeing in lower light conditions.
- Colours beginning to look less vivid.
Patients often complain of feeling like their glasses are steamed up or in need of cleaning. As the symptoms of the cataract become more noticeable, they can start to make daily tasks more difficult.
CATARACTS AND DRIVING
It is important to have regular eye examinations in order to check the condition of your cataracts, how much they have developed and how badly they are affecting your vision. It is likely that they will impact on your ability to see to drive. Your optician will be able to tell you what level your vision is at and whether you are still within the legal driving standards set by the DVLA.
If you have been diagnosed as having cataracts in both eyes, you should notify the DVLA. You don’t necessarily need to let them know if you have a cataract in one eye, unless you have pre-existing problems with the vision in the other eye, or if you drive for a living.
CAN CATARACTS BE TREATED?
The only treatment for cataracts is a surgical procedure to remove the clouded lens, replacing it with an artificial lens implant. As with any surgery there are risks involved, and some people choose never to have their cataracts removed. However, the surgery is very common, and is usually completed as an outpatient procedure under local anaesthetic.
Because of the volume of patients needing this procedure the waiting times can be long. Therefore, opticians tend not to refer patients for the procedure unnecessarily, and will wait until the cataracts are causing a significant reduction in the patients’ vision.
We’re here to help
If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with or is concerned about cataracts, our fully qualified and experienced optometrists can perform a full assessment, answer any questions that you have to put your mind at ease. We are also able to refer into the NHS or private healthcare when the time comes, as well as dealing with any aftercare needs.
@Home Healthcare is a home-based service providing eye examinations, low vision services and care home visits across South Wales for those who are unable to make it out to see an optician. We have combined 50 years of healthcare professional expertise with the one vision of improving our patients’ lives.
We really care about your vision, so if you or any of your relatives have noticed a change or simply want a check over your eye health then the good news is we’re here for you. Check whether you are eligible for a home visit then get in touch to book a consultation for yourself or your family member.