Eye Disease
4 min read

Cataract

Published on
December 4, 2023
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A cataract is a cloudiness of the natural lens of the eye which progresses over time and makes it difficult to see. Cataracts cause light scatter, which can lead to visual problems over time. Almost 1 in 3 Australians over the age of 55 have cataract compared to around 1in 30 with macular degeneration and 1 in 40 with glaucoma, making them one of the most common visual problems we see.1 Optometrists at our Adelaide and Henley Beach branches have cutting-edge technology at their disposal that can reveal any changes to the lens of the eye that may lead to cataracts, before symptoms appear. Book an eye test for cataract diagnostics and treatment options or contact us for more information.

What are cataracts?

Cataracts arise within the lens inside the eye. They are associated with age related changes. Approximately 50% of all people over the age of 60 have some form of cataract. This percentage increases by age 70 where nearly all people will have a degree of cataract.2 They can be accelerated by certain conditions such as diabetes, smoking or long-term use of steroids. Cataracts can also result from ocular trauma or can be congenital (present from birth). Importantly, cataracts often develop at a slow rate and can develop differently in each eye.

What types of cataracts are there?

There are three major types of cataracts which are classified by where the opacification occurs in the crystalline lens. They are nuclear sclerotic, cortical and posterior subcapsular cataracts. These types all affect an individual’s vision slightly differently, but common symptoms of cataracts include blurred vision (in the distance and/or when reading), increased problems with glare and nighttime vision, haloes around lights, and possibly double vision.

How do I know if I have cataracts?

The diagnosis of cataracts is made clinically where an eye health professional uses various clinical tests. An assessment of the crystalline lens is performed with a slit-lamp biomicroscopy and photographs can aid in monitoring change over time. At Innovative Eye Care, we have other imaging tools which can help photograph an individual’s cataract including our new Pentacam AXL Wave and Multicolour imaging on our Heidelberg OCT.

What can I do about my cataracts?

Regular eye examinations are key for an early diagnosis and proper management of cataracts.

There is no proven method to preventing cataracts, although cigarette smoking and UV exposure have both been shown to increase your risk. A broad brimmed hat and sunglasses that meet Australian standards should be worn outdoors to reduce this risk.

Treatment and management of a cataract is dictated by its effect on an individual’s day to day functioning. As cataracts can alter a patient’s spectacle prescription, updated spectacles are often beneficial, and adequate lighting when reading and using sunglasses when outside are simple changes which can improve quality of life.

If these changes are not enough to alleviate an individual’s visual problems, referral for cataract surgery is considered. Cataract surgery is currently the one of the most commonly performed elective surgeries in Australia, with around 190,000 operations undertaken annually.3 An ophthalmologist will surgically remove the cataract and replace it with a clear, artificial lens which stays inside of the eye. A common occurrence after cataract surgery is what is known as a “secondary cataract” or posterior subcapsular opacification whereby the bag (also known as the lens capsule) in which the artificial lens sits in the eye becomes opacified. This is easily treated with a small amount of laser resulting in the restoration of vision.

References

1) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare,2005. Vision Problems Among Older Australians. Canberra, pp.12-15.

2) RANZCO - Cataract Surgery (A Guide for Patients). Edition number 10, 30 August 2017.

3) Australian Institute of Health and Welfare2019. Hospitals at a glance 2017–18. Canberra: AIHW. Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/hospitals/hospitals-at-a-glance-2017-18

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