Eye Disease – Cataracts

Cataracts are the most common eye disease affecting older people. The lens of the eye is normally clear, allowing light to reach the back of the eye. However, in cataracts the lens becomes clouded in parts, preventing the passage of light, which causes blurred vision. During the aging process, the proteins which make up the lens undergo changes, causing the cloudy patches to occur. It is thought that changes in the circulation may change the nutrients and fluids reaching the eye and contribute to the changes in the lens’ proteins. Other symptoms of cataracts include small dots in your vision, vision might be misty, more difficult in particularly bright or dim light and colours may appear more faded. These changes to vision can make day to day activities more difficult, as is reading and watching television.

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Although cataracts are more common with age, other risk factors include having family members with cataracts, smoking, not eating a balanced diet, over-exposure of the eyes to sunlight and having diabetes.

Cataracts can be managed initially with stronger glasses and modifications such as using a brighter light when reading. However, if cataracts are not treated they can result in blindness, so usually once they are affecting everyday activities, surgery to remove them is usually recommended. This procedure takes away the clouded lens and replaces it with a clear artificial lens. Cataract operations are usually carried out under local anaesthetic and you will normally be able to return home the same day. The improvement in vision after the procedure is often immediate.