What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. The lens is a structure that aids in focusing light rays on the retina. It is located behind the iris and pupil. Cataracts block light from reaching the retina and interfere with vision – similar to looking through a foggy window.
Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss in people over the age of 40. It is estimated that more than 2.5 million Canadians have cataracts and it is the leading cause of blindness in the world.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cataracts?
Signs and symptoms of cataracts include:
– Blurred and cloudy vision
– Glare and halos around lights
– Poor night vision
– Sunlight, headlights or lamps may appear too bright
– Colors appear faded
– Double vision
What are the Causes and Risk Factors for Cataracts?
The main risk factors that have been associated with cataracts are:
– Long-term UV exposure (sunlight)
– Family history
– Heavy alcohol consumption
– Long-term steroid use
How can I Prevent Cataracts?
Sunglasses that block out UV light are very important in the prevention of cataracts since UV exposure is one of the main risk factors associated with cataract formation. Wearing a wide brim hat along with your sunglasses is also advised to help block out more damaging UV light from the sun.
Some studies have found that a healthy diet rich in antioxidants (Vitamins A, C, and E, lutein and zeaxanthin) can decrease the chance of cataract development and their progression. Reducing salt intake may also be helpful, since some studies have found high sodium intake to be a risk factor for cataracts.
The symptoms of early stages of cataracts can often be improved by updating your eyeglass prescription, anti-glare coatings, and increasing the amount of light when reading.
If the cataract has matured and the above measures cannot improve your vision, then cataract surgery should be considered to restore your vision. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed and is very safe and effective. Your Optometrist will assess your cataracts and how they are affecting your vision and lifestyle during your eye exam and refer you for surgery when needed.
Visit your eye doctor regularly
Regular eye exams with your Optometrist are the best way to ensure that your eyes stay healthy. Your Optometrist will detect and monitor cataracts and discuss ways to prevent and slow the progression of cataracts along with other eye diseases. If necessary, your Optometrist can refer you to an eye surgeon for cataract surgery.