What Are Cataracts, and Are They Avoidable?
You might've heard of your nan going for an eye surgery to treat something called a cataract. While it may cause some anxiety for something that could happen to you, take comfort in the fact that it's more common than you may think and can be widely treated.
What are cataracts?
Cataract is the clouding of the natural internal lens of your eye. Most of the time this occurs naturally, as an unavoidable part of the human ageing process, but cataracts can also develop following blunt trauma to the eyes, secondary to diabetes, and with some medications such as steroids.
There are many different types of cataract, but they all result in blurry, hazy and often more sepia-toned vision. Annoyingly, cataracts also affect your contrast sensitivity, making tasks like reading more challenging, and can result in you experiencing more glare, e.g. with oncoming headlights when driving at night.
How likely am I to develop cataracts?
Age-related cataracts develop when the proteins in the natural lenses of your eyes start to break down. This process generally begins from the age of 40, and progressively, our natural internal lenses become more cloudy and hardened over time. Basically, the older we get, the more likely we are to develop cataracts and because of this, most people either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery when in their 80s. Seeing as we have an ageing population in the UK, most people in the UK have their cataracts removed surgically via the NHS, making it one of the most common (and relatively painless) procedures carried out in the UK.
Other factors like smoking, sun exposure, and living an unhealthy lifestyle can all contribute to early cataract development. It's super important to take care by wearing sunglasses on bright days, and ask your GP about support with smoking cessation.
Ultimately, if you’re lucky enough to age, then some form of cataract development is inevitable. Make sure you attend your regular sight tests with your optometrist and they will monitor any changes for you. You can also book a remote consultation to speak with one of our optometrists (right from your phone or laptop!) should you have any concerns.