Cataracts: responsible for 51% of the world’s blindness

Did you know that over 500,000 people in the UK are living with a visually impairing cataract? Not only this, but a staggering 30% of UK citizens aged 65 and over are affected!

June is cataracts awareness month. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the ins and outs of the condition and what to do if you are living with it.

What is a cataract? 

A cataract is a visually impairing condition in which the lens becomes ‘cloudy’ and is often described as looking through frosted glass - sound familiar?

This clouding develops gradually and can occur in one or both eyes. Over time a cataract can result in complete loss of vision. 

It’s essential to attend regular eye examinations (once every two years minimum) to detect a cataract early on. 

Causes

Age is one of the main culprits for the development of a cataract and is in fact a natural part of the eye’s ageing process; everyone will develop a degree of the condition at some point. 

There are however, several factors that contribute to the development of a cataract.

So, what is actually happening inside the eye?

A cataract develops from the build-up of protein that ‘clumps together’, reducing the amount of light that reaches the retina. The light that does break through is scattered, so it can no longer focus correctly.

When a cataract is in the initial stages, it is small and the cloudiness only affects a small part of the lens. As the cataract progresses, this cloudiness will start to take up more and more of the lens. 

Here are some of the main causes of cataracts: 

•           Over exposure to ultraviolet light 

•           Diabetes  

•           Smoking

•           Prolonged use of corticosteroid medications 

•           Previous eye injury or inflammation  

•           High myopia (short-sightedness) 

•           Family history

Symptoms

A cataract develops slowly and can become uncomfortable in its advanced stages. Medical advice must be sought after once a cataract begins to form. Once this happens, the condition will not go away on its own, but worsen over time.

Symptoms of cataracts include:

•           Cloudy or blurry vision

•           Decreased colour distinction  

•           Difficulty with vision at night

•           Sensitivity to light and glare

•           Seeing "halos" around lights

•           Frequent changes in prescription

•           Double vision 

Treatment

In the early stages of cataracts, many people manage the symptoms with glasses or contact lenses. However as the condition progresses, Lens Replacement Surgery is required to remove the cataract.    

Lens Replacement Surgery is a simple procedure in which the natural lens is removed with the use of ultrasound and replaced with an artificial one.

Remarkably it is the most commonly performed procedure in the world, with an estimated 20 million surgeries per year! 

Experienced surgeons such as, Ultralase Eye Clinics Medical Director, Dr. Ilango can complete the procedure in less than ten minutes per eye.

The procedure can correct long-sightedness, short-sightedness, presbyopia, astigmatism and cataracts with the use of a multifocal lens; restoring visual clarity at all distances. 

Have you got questions about your eye health?

Have you got any burning questions about eye conditions or treatments? Dr. Ilango, Medical Director at Ultralase Eye Clinics, is on hand to answer them!

Send your questions to sarah.hughes@readersdigest.co.uk by July 2nd and keep your eyes peeled for the answers in the August issue.

For more information visit www.ultralase.com or call 0800 988 6385