If we are lucky to have enough birthdays, most of us will develop cataracts in our eyes. In some cases, cataracts can occur when we are born or develop in younger years as well. Cataracts do not cause pain, however can affect our quality of vision and increase our sensitivity to light.
So what is a cataract? The clouding of the clear lens in the eye is referred to as ‘cataract’. (1) This has the effect of making vision feel like looking through a foggy window. Often it cannot be seen with the naked eye – a slitlamp microscope allows your optometrist to check and monitor for cataract. There are different types of cataract; the three most common types are called nuclear cataract, cortical cataract and subcapsular cataract. Depending on the location and type of cataract, these may affect our eyesight differently.
Who is at risk? People who are/have:
- Older people, especially over 55 years (3,4)
- Exposed to significant sunlight without protection (3,4)
- Family history of cataract (3,4)
- High myopia (3)
- Health conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure (3)
- Long term use of steroid medications (3)
- Smokers / previous smokers (3)
- Obesity (3)
- Excessive alcohol consumption (3)
- Previous eye injury/inflammation (3)
- Previous eye surgery (3)
- Radiation exposure, electric shock from high voltage wires, infrared radiation in occupations such as glassblowing (2)
- UV Protection – ‘Slip, Slop, Slap & Slide’ and seek the shade. Ensure to slide on your sunglasses whenever you’re outdoors to protect your eyes from UV from the sun. (3,4)
- Healthy diet rich in nutrients, vitamins and a variety of fruit & vegetables. (3,4)
- Manage any medical conditions (eg. Diabetes – ensure good blood sugar level control, regular assessment and taking medications as prescribed) (3,4)
- Quit smoking (3,4)
- Reduce alcohol consumption (3)
- Regular eye examinations
- Mukesh BN, Le A, Dimitrov PN, Ahmed S, Taylor HR, McCarty CA. Development of Cataract and Associated Risk Factors: The Visual Impairment Project. Arch Ophthalmol. 2006;124(1):79–85. doi:10.1001/archopht.124.1.79
- Congdon NG. Prevention strategies for age related cataract: present limitations and future possibilities. British Journal of Ophthalmology 2001;85:516-520.
Natalie Buckman is a clinical optometrist, educator, professional leader and ophthalmic medicines prescriber, who enjoys exploring the world and hitting the dance floor in her spare time.