Cataracts

A cataract refers to the condition which occurs when the lens inside the eye clouds over, leading to a blurred and decreased field of vision.

The clouding or misting of the lens prevents light from passing through the eye and being focused onto the retina. Vision loss is gradual as the cataract grows bigger, until eventually, all light is obstructed.

Nothing is more precious than our eye sight. Our eyes allow us to enjoy the beauty of the world around us. So much of what we learn, what we experience, and what we enjoy, comes to us through our eyes. As you look at the world around you, think of how valuable your vision is. Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss for people all around the world. For people who have cataracts, seeing through a cloudy lens, is like looking through a foggy window. While there is no way to prevent Cataracts, you can slow their progression by wearing UV protected sunglasses, eating healthily, quitting smoking, and taking nutritional supplements (when recommended by your doctor). It’s also important, that you continue to monitor Cataract development, by visiting your eye care professional for annual eye exams.

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Symptoms

Exeter Eye Healthy eye vs cataract diagramCommon cataract symptoms include:-

  • Deterioration of your distance and reading vision
  • Hazy, fuzzy, blurred or double vision
  • Increased sensitivity to light and glare
  • Difficulty driving at night
  • No improvement in vision, even with stronger glasses

As the cataract grows larger and clouds more of your lens, more noticeable symptoms will develop. These symptoms may include cloudy or blurred vision, faded colors, double or multiple images, and poor night vision.

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Symptoms can be affected by the exact type of cataract you have and some signs may show sooner than others. Different types include:-

  • A nuclear cataract – this is usually associated with ageing, and forms deep in the nucleus (centre) of the lens.
  • A sub-capsular cataract – this is associated with people who have diabetes or have taken high doses of steroids. It forms in the back of the lens.
  • A cortical cataract – this occurs in the lens cortex and is characterised by peripheral clouding which works its way toward the centre of the lens.

Cataracts are not usually painful and rarely cause irritation or redness. They are only associated with other symptoms in extremely advanced cases.

In the early stages many people can tolerate the symptoms caused by cataracts but as the cataract advances most patients would benefit from surgery.

Exeter Eye Cataract lens diagram

Causes

Whilst the exact cause is unknown, there are a number of factors which may contribute to the development of the condition. These include:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Obesity and a lack of vitamins
  • Significant alcohol consumption
  • Certain health conditions like diabetes, hypertension and high myopia
  • Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other sources
  • Previous eye injury, inflammation or surgery
  • The use of corticosteroid medications, statin medicines or hormone replacement therapy

On the whole, cataracts occur naturally as a result of the ageing process and diagnosis of cataracts in adults over 40 is quite normal.

Cataracts also sometimes occur in infants and children as a congenital defect.

Did You Know?

Cataracts are one of the most common causes of blindness in patients over 40. It is estimated that over two and half million people in England and Wales suffer from visual impairment as a result of cataracts.

Cataracts are a part of the aging process, but they do not have to interfere with your lifestyle. A cataract is a cloudiness of the crystalline lens inside your eye. As your lens gets cloudier, your vision will gradually become more blurred. The human eye may best be compared to a camera. When you take a picture, the lens in the front of the camera allows light through and focuses that light on the film. When the light hits the film, a picture is taken. The eye works in much the same way. The lens of your eye is clear, and allows light to pass through. Light is focused by your cornea and lens onto a thin layer of tissue, called the retina. Your retina works like the film in a camera. When the focused light hits the retina, a picture is taken, and sent to your brain. While a dirty camera lens blurs a picture, any significant cataract in your lens will blur what you see.

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A posterior subcapsular cataract is an opaque area that forms at the back of the lens and can lead to a gradual decrease in vision. An early posterior subcapsular cataract may not cause any symptoms. However, this type of cataract can grow more rapidly than other types of cataracts, and can sometimes cause a significant decrease in vision in a matter of months. As the cataract grows, it causes light entering the eye to scatter, increasing the severity of symptoms. It can make it difficult to see in bright light or while reading, and cause glare and halos around lights at night.

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When posterior subcapsular cataracts cause enough of a decrease in vision that you have difficulty doing daily activities like reading, watching TV, or driving, cataract surgery may help.

Treating Cataracts

In their initial stages cataracts can be treated with stronger prescription glasses and an adjustment in the brightness of lights. However, these are only temporary measures as the condition will gradually get worse. As a cataract develops and begins to affect your lifestyle, removal may be required.

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Surgery is the only effective treatment as the lens in the eye will need to be removed and replaced. If your loss of vision begins to affect daily activities, this will likely be the recommendation of your optician or ophthalmologist.

At Exeter Eye our surgeons have many years of experience in assessing cataracts and giving individualised advice on when the time is right to consider surgery.

Fortunately, cataract surgery is relatively quick, straightforward and painless.

Cataract surgery is performed under local anaesthetic by our highly experienced ophthalmic surgeons and only takes a few minutes. Your surgeon will use state-of-the-art ultrasound technology to safely remove the cataract from your eye. They will then carefully replace it with a clear artificial lens. The operation is completely painless, and will most likely be over before you know it.

And thanks to the advanced cataract surgery techniques used by Exeter Eye, we may even be able to correct other vision problems at the same time.

When your cataract is removed it is replaced by a plastic intraocular lens (IOL). If you suffer from long-sightedness, short-sightedness or astigmatism we may be able to help correct your focusing error during your cataract surgery, greatly reducing your dependence on glasses or contact lenses.

We also offer the Symfony lens, which gives you an extended depth of focus, so that your need for glasses after surgery is very small. The Symfony and Symfony toric lens implants are giving patients the opportunity to live relatively glasses free after cataract surgery, which most patients find very liberating.

After your cataract surgery, you will be able to go home almost straight away. You should see an improvement in your vision within the first few days and will be able to resume normal activities after a couple of days too. You will be given eye drops to use for 4 weeks to help your eyes heal.

Your surgeon will only carry out cataract surgery on one eye at a time. Should you need cataract surgery for both eyes, you can have your second cataract operation after two to four weeks.

If you experience any of the above symptoms or would like some advice regarding cataract treatment please call us on 01392 699969 or book a consultation.