A cataract is the cloudiness that forms in the clear lens inside the eye. This cloudiness will cause blurred vision and increased sensitivity to glare as sunlight reflects off the cloudy spots within the eye. Almost everyone over 70 has some signs of cataracts. They usually progress quite slowly, gradually causing increasingly blurred vision and glare sensitivity. If left untreated, cataracts can cause significant vision loss, although in Australia this is unlikely due to modern access to eyecare.
Cataracts form due to the breakdown in the material that makes up the lens within the eye. This causes crystallization and clouding of the lens material and subsequent deterioration in sharpness of vision. Cataracts are most commonly the result of ageing and long-term exposure to UV light, however can also be caused by injury, disease, certain medications and exposure to toxic materials. Some cataracts can also be congenital and babies can be born with significant opacities.
Your Envision Optical optometrist will detect cataracts as part of our routine comprehensive eye examination. Dilation of your pupils may be required to accurately assess the extent of the cataracts, and we will often document the density with a photograph.
If vision is still at a good level and symptoms are not yet significant, we will simply observe the cataracts and vision levels annually. If vision becomes significantly blurred and if driving standards are threatened, you will be referred to an eye surgeon for assessment and surgical removal of the cataract. The surgery is extremely successful and relatively straight forward, involving the removal of the cloudy lens material from the eye, and replacing it with a plastic intraocular lens which will restore clear vision. Recovery is quite quick, however you will need to put drops in your eyes for a month or so after surgery. Most people will have a significant improvement in their distance vision without glasses, but it is quite normal to still need a small prescription to see your sharpest for TV and driving, as well as for reading and close vision tasks.