Cataracts are a common condition where the normally clear lens inside the eye becomes cloudy. This occurs when the arrangement of the proteins within the lens changes. The clumping of these proteins results in light being unable to pass through directly, giving rise to blurry vision.
Most cases of cataracts are related to the ageing process. In some cases, babies can be born with cataracts. These are known as congenital cataracts. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light can also increase the risk of developing a cataract.
Other factors that can increase the chances of developing a cataract are:
- Steroid medication prescribed over a long period of time
- Previous eye injury
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
Patients with early cataracts frequently complain of no symptoms at all. In fact, they are often detected for the first time at a routine eye examination.
The changes in vision can be quite subtle. The following symptoms are frequently observed:
- Gradual onset of blurry or cloudy vision which is not improved with a change in glasses. This is the most common symptom. Colours can also appear faded and take on a yellowish hue.
- Glare or sensitivity to light is another early symptom. Bright light or indoor lights which previously didn’t bother you appear bright or give rise to halos. This is especially true when driving at night or in bright sunny conditions
- Some patients, who previously needed glasses for reading, describe an improvement in their reading ability and no longer need their spectacles for a period of time. This is called second sight and is usually short-lived as the cataract gets worse.
- Double vision in one eye.
Cataract surgery is indicated when the patient’s perceived level of vision has reduced to such an extent that it interferes with their quality of life and the ability to perform usual daily tasks is compromised.