What is age related cataracts?
Cataracts are cloudy or misty patches that can develop in the lens of the eye making it difficult to see clearly. Cataracts can develop in one eye or both eyes and, if not treated, tend to gradually worsen over time. Cataracts are common – in the UK around one in three people aged 65 or older have some degree of visual impairment caused by cataracts.
Signs and symptoms
Cataracts develop quite slowly so the symptoms often come on gradually and it may take some time to notice them. Common symptoms include:
• Blurry, cloudy or misty vision.
• Being dazzled by lights, such as car headlights, and sunlight.
• Noticing that colours appear faded or less vivid.
• Difficulty seeing in either dim or very bright light.
• Noticing that reading and watching TV is more difficult.
What causes age-related cataracts?
The most common cause of cataracts is age. It is thought that as we get older, natural changes in a protein that makes up the lenses of our eyes can occur and this causes cloudy patches to develop.
As well as age, there are a number of other factors that may increase the risk of developing cataracts:
- Having diabetes.
- Eating a poor diet.
- Having a family history of cataracts.
- Taking steroid medications.
- Exposure to UV light (sunlight).
Stopping smoking and eating a healthy diet will reduce your risk of developing cataracts. Using sunglasses with a CE mark, UV400 label or that offer 100% UV protection when it is sunny will also help to protect your eyes from damage.
Help and support
If you are concerned about any symptoms you are experiencing it is important to speak to your GP and attend regular eye tests. If cataracts are found you may be referred on to an eye clinic where a specialist will be able to discuss treatment options with you. Currently there is no medication that can help with cataracts and, other than simply using visual aids to help your sight, surgery is the only treatment option. If your loss of vision is affecting your ability to carry out daily activities like reading and writing it is likely that surgery will be recommended for you. Surgery involves removing the affected lens and replacing it with an artificial one.
Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is the leading charity offering information, support and advice to people with sight loss.
Helpline: 0303 123 9999 or visit www.rnib.org.uk