1. Cataract is the most common cause of blindness in the world
In fact, there are more cases of cataract worldwide than there are other serious eye diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy combined.
In Singapore, cataract affects around 80% of people over the age of 60 years and 95% of people over the age of 70 years.
If you are experiencing cloudy or blurry vision, and suspect you may have a cataract, consult an eye specialist.
2. Cataract symptoms get progressively worse
You might not know you have a cataract straight away. The first symptom is usually blurriness or cloudiness, making everything you look at appear slightly hazy.
With cataract, blurriness will generally get worse over time. The cataract may develop a brownish or yellowish tinge that makes it harder to see, especially at night. You may develop sensitivity to bright lights. Some people also see halos (rings of coloured light) around bright lights, which can make certain activities, like driving at night, really difficult. Other possible symptoms include double vision. Eventually, cataract can lead to blindness.
It’s easy to dismiss some of the earlier symptoms of cataract as just needing a new pair of reading glasses. That’s why it’s so important to visit your eye doctor if you notice any changes in your eyesight.
3. You can develop cataract at any age
We typically associate cataract with ageing. While growing old is certainly a risk factor, you can actually develop cataract at any age. Other risk factors include high myopia, history of eye trauma, diabetes, long-term use of steroid medications, smoking, obesity, alcohol abuse, high blood pressure and too much sun exposure. And if you have a family history of cataract, you may also be at risk.
Going for regular eye screening will help to rule out cataract and other potentially serious eye conditions early enough to minimise the long-term impact on your vision.
4. Your risk of cataract increases if you have diabetes
Doctors still aren’t sure why, but the fact is that diabetes increases your risk of cataract. The statistics don’t lie: people with diabetes have a 60% higher risk of developing the condition.
Managing your blood sugar levels will go some way towards reducing your risk, but you should also remember to schedule regular eye appointments so you can stay on top of your eye health.
5. Cataract is effectively and safely treated with surgery
While you can manage the symptoms of mild cataract with stronger eyeglasses or prescription sunglasses, the definitive treatment is surgery. Modern cataract surgery is a safe and effective procedure with an average of 25,000 cases performed annually in Singapore.
In most cases of cataract surgery, sedation is usually given to make you more relaxed. Either numbing eye drops or injection will be given so that you can’t feel anything. Your doctor will gently break up the cataract using ultrasound and sometimes laser before suctioning it out and thereafter implanting new artificial lens.
You’ll be given medicated eye drops to help with the healing and prevent infection. Depending on the surgical technique used, your eye will usually fully heal after 1 – 2 months.
Recent innovations have led to the development of a variety of lens implant designs, each with its own unique features and benefits. Advanced implants such as multifocal (trifocal) and extended range of focus lenses can correct short or long-sightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia all at one go. These types of lenses allow patients to achieve a high degree of spectacle independence.
Take steps to prolong your healthy eyesight!
Research has shown that eating foods high in antioxidants could help to prolong your eyesight. You should make sure you’re getting lots of vitamin C and vitamin E. Try to eat more:
- Citrus fruits (eg. oranges, grapefruits)
- Red and green peppers
Smokers are also at risk of developing cataracts later in life. Quitting smoking isn’t just good for your lungs and heart – it’s good for your eyes, too.
Remember to wear sunglasses when you’re outside (ones that block UV rays and screen out at least 75% of visible light) as UV light can damage your eyes. Most importantly, have your eyes checked regularly to ensure they stay in tip-top health!
If you need more information on cataract and treatment options, consult an eye specialist.
Article reviewed by Dr Chua Wei Han, ophthalmologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital
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