What is a cataract?
Cataracts form when the clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy or misty. The lens is like a window that lets light into the eye and is positioned behind the iris (the coloured part of the eye). It is usually a gradual process, that normally happens as we get older, and it doesn’t hurt.
Why do cataracts occur?
- Exposure to UV / sunlight
- Ocular injury
- Some medical conditions, e.g. diabetes
- Congenital (you are born with it)
How can I stop my Cataracts getting worse?
There are various supplements on the market, which claim to slow the progression of cataracts, but there is no scientific evidence to suggest that they can prevent, or treat cataracts.
The best advice to try and prevent cataracts:
- Not to smoke
- Wearing good quality UV protective eyewear is of tremendous benefit, as they protect your eye’s lens from harmful UV rays, which can speed up cataract formation
- Maintain a healthy diet, rich in antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, E, zinc, selenium and magnesium can also be beneficial
In the UK, we can experience high levels of UV, even in the winter, when it is cold but sunny. The higher the UV Index, the greater the dose rate of the eye and skin-damaging UV radiation. You must remember to protect your eyes at all times, as UV can age both the eyes and skin around the eyes. We also need to be aware that certain types of thin cloud can even magnify the ultraviolet radiation strength.
To protect your eyes, we recommend fully UV protective sunglasses or Transitions photochromatic lenses, which are fully protected against harmful UVA and UVB rays. The Transitions brand also comes with a 2-year warranty www.transitions.com/en-gb/
How will cataracts affect my vision?
- You may notice that your vision is less clear and distinct, almost like looking through a fog
- Car headlights and streetlights can become dazzling, especially at night when you may experience problems with glare
- You may experience difficulties moving from shade to sunlit areas, and colours may look different too, becoming more faded or yellowed
In the early stages of cataracts, your eyesight is not necessarily affected, prevention is key. When your vision is only minimally affected your optometrist may prescribe new lenses for your glasses, to provide you with the sharpest vision possible.
Some cataracts never progress to the point that they need to be removed. It is important that the cataract is monitored regularly (usually every 6-12 months). As the cataract progresses, it may start to affect your vision and you may need surgery.
Your optometrist will refer you to a hospital to have the cataract removed. This is done as day surgery under local anaesthetic, so you will be awake during the procedure and can go home on the same day. Once you have the cataract removed it will not return.
How we will take good care of your eyes:
We will closely monitor your cataract and even take photographs of its progression, as part of our enhanced eye examination. When the cataract gets worse you can choose to be referred on the NHS or privately. Our fully qualified optometrists will refer you to the hospital of your choice when the cataract is of a level that is ready for treatment.
Your chosen hospital will contact you directly with an appointment time for the surgery. This contact should happen within 8-12 weeks.
Your optometrist will then carry out a further examination, around 4-6 weeks after your operation. Occasionally, some months, or even years later, some people notice that their vision becomes cloudy or misty again, in the eye where the cataract has been removed. This is not the cataract returning, but it is due to the capsule or sac which contains the replacement lens, clouding. This clouding can be removed by a painless laser called YAG, which takes a matter of minutes. Your optometrist will monitor you closely for this after you have had a cataract operation. This is why it is important to still have regular eye examinations, even after the cataract has been removed.