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What Is A Cataract?

A cataract is a clouding in the lens of the eye. This lens lies behind the iris (the coloured part of the eye) and the pupil (the black centre of the eye). Its job is to focus light that passes through the eye in order to deliver a clear, sharp image to the retina.

In a normal or young eye, this lens is clear.

Cataracts can affect one or both eyes and can lead to blindness. In fact, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness across the globe.

A sufferer of cataracts may experience clouded vision, like trying to see through a foggy window, and eventually can develop total vision loss.

The images below show what a cataract can look like through a dilated pupil:


what is a cataract


what is a cataract - example of cataract

What Causes Cataracts?

Cataracts can form as a result of:

* Injury or damage to the eye, including from the sun’s UV rays
* Previous eye surgery
* Ageing – By the age of 70, almost everyone has some degree of cataract formation in one or both eyes
* Other eye diseases such as glaucoma and myopia
* Exposure to environmental toxins such as radiation, smoking and alcohol
* Genetic predisposition – A family history of cataracts increases your risk of developing cataracts
* Gestation and birth – Babies are sometimes born with cataracts
* Hormone replacement therapy
* Obesity
* Use of medications including statins (used to treat high cholesterol) and steroid medications
* Other medical conditions – Cataracts can occur hand-in-hand with a wide variety of syndromes, disorders and illnesses (sometimes as a result of medications used to treat these conditions) including Down syndrome, asthma, diabetes and eczema.

    Symptoms of Cataracts

    A cataract begins as a small spot of cloudiness and increases over time. It may not have any effect on your vision at first, but eventually if left unchecked it can begin to have an impact on your eyesight.

    If you have a cataract, you may experience these symptoms in one or both eyes:

    * Sensitivity to glare or brightness
    * Hazy or blurred vision
    * Distorted vision
    * Double vision
    * Dimness in vision, or loss of colour vibrancy
    * Needing a brighter light for reading or other activities
    * Needing frequent updates to glasses or contact lens prescriptions.


      How Do Cataracts Form?

      The lens inside the eye is comprised of proteins. As we age, these proteins may clump together, thicken and lose flexibility. This results in the cloudiness in the eye lens that typifies a cataract.

      As time progresses, the cataract grows and the cloudiness spreads. Instead of nice, sharply focused images reaching the retina, the light is now blocked and scattered, resulting in blurred vision.

      We don’t know for sure why the proteins in the eye lens break down and clump together. But there are some preventative measures you can take to protect your eyes from developing cataracts.


      Prevention Of Cataracts

      There is NO conclusive scientific evidence to prove that cataracts can be prevented. However, these measures are thought to protect eyes against the progression of cataracts:

      * Vigilant use of quality protective sunglasses from an early age, especially polarised sunglasses with a wraparound framestudies do suggest a link between UV light exposure and cataract formation
      * High intake of antioxidants from fresh fruit and vegetables
      * Adequate intake of Vitamins E and C
      * Reducing exposure to environmental toxins such as alcohol and cigarette smoke
      * Maintaining general good health, especially with respect to healthy weight and cholesterol levels
      * Having regular eye tests with your Ophthalmologist.

        Treatment Of Cataracts

        When a cataract is still small, the impact on your vision and quality of life may be managed by a new or updated glasses or contact lens prescription, bifocals, changes in lighting according to your needs, and wearing sunglasses with UV protection.

        If your cataract has advanced to the point where it has a notable impact on your vision and quality of life, you may need to consider cataract surgery.

        Thankfully, cataract surgery is very successful in restoring vision for most people. Read the RANZCO information leaflet on cataract surgery.

        Without surgery, once a lens becomes cloudy, it will not regain its functionality. Only surgery can restore loss of vision from cataracts. Your Ophthalmologist will assess your vision and advise you on the best approach for you.

        Only Beamers Sunglasses have Optoshield® Technology, a four-pronged system for the best eye protection. Learn more about the Ophthalmologists who created Beamers.