Eye Diseases and Disorders

Cataracts

Cataracts

What are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a natural result of ageing. The eye’s natural crystalline lens helps us focus on people and things at varying distances. As we grow older, this lens gradually changes to become less transparent (clear). This leads to cloudy or misty vision – cataracts. Over time a cataract can get worse, gradually making your vision mistier.

Causes

While cataracts can occur as a result of other eye diseases, they mostly develop naturally with age. In fact, by age 65, many of us can develop a cataract.

Other less common causes include heredity, birth defects, chronic diseases such as diabetes, excessive use of steroid medications, and certain eye injuries.

Read more on our Vision and Age section.

Symptoms of Cataracts

At first, symptoms may be undetectable or very slight. However, any noticeable change in vision may be cause for concern, and should be brought to the attention of an eye care professional. Common symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Cloudy or blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Frequent prescription changes for glasses or contact lenses
  • Poor night vision
  • Colour vision changes and dimming
  • Double vision in a single eye

Treatment for Cataracts

While there is no way to prevent cataracts, there are things you can do to slow their formation. Modifiable factors that increase the risk of cataracts include smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, and excessive alcohol intake. You may also slow the formation of cataracts by protecting your eyes from direct sunlight.

In the early stages of cataracts, vision may be slightly improved using forms of visual correction. However, in the later stages of cataract, surgery is required. Fortunately, surgery has proven to be extremely successful in the removal of cataracts. During cataract surgery, your ophthalmologist will replace your natural lens with an intraocular lens (IOL).

Cataracts in Babies

cataracts in baby

Normally, babies are born with a transparent lens in each eye that brings objects into focus, making it possible for the eye to see. Instead of a transparent lens, some babies are born with a milky white lens, which is too cloudy to focus on objects. This condition is called a cataract.

Read more on our Vision and Age section.

Causes

Heredity is the most common cause of cataracts in babies and young children. In recent years, other causes have been found, such as a mother contracting German measles while pregnant.

Symptoms

It is hard to spot signs of cataracts in babies and young children; however, routine eye examinations within 72 hours of birth and at six to eight weeks screen for cataracts.

Treatment

Cataracts in newborn babies should be addressed as early as possible, preferably within the first three months of life, because obstructed vision can prevent important stages of their development.

The surgical procedure for cataracts in babies is much like it is for adults, involving the removal of the affected lens in the eye. Depending on the baby’s age and eye development, the surgeon may implant a new, plastic lens to replace the original.

These symptoms can also be a sign of other eye conditions. If you have any of the symptoms, please check with your eye care practitioner.