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What is a cataract?
A cataract is a condition when your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy, preventing sufficient light from entering the eye. Proteins in your lens break down and cause things to look blurry, hazy or less colourful.
It’s as if you were looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield - things naturally look blurry, hazy or less colourful with a cataract.
Some other vision changes you may notice if you have cataract includes :
- seeing double vision
- being extra sensitive to light ( especially when driving at night )
- having trouble reading well at night, requiring more light
- seeing bright colours as faded or yellow instead.
- frequent changes in glasses or contact lens prescription
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or vision changes, please see an eye doctor immediately.
Causes of cataracts
The most common cause of cataract is ageing.
Other causes & risk factors includes
- injury to The Eye
- previous eye conditions and past eye surgery
- other medical conditions like diabetes
- Long term usage of medications like steroids
- Prolonged UV or sunlight exposure
- Occasionally young children can get cataract too, due to congenital causes.
Slowing the progression of Cataracts
There are no scientifically proven prevention methods, but these tips may be helpful to slow the progression :
- protect your eyes from UV light by wearing sunglasses regularly
- Stop smoking
- Have regular eye checks, especially if you are already over 65
- Have good control over your pre-existing medical conditions like diabetes.
Cataracts are usually not dangerous to eye health unless they become completely white as it can cause raised eye pressure resulting in closed angle glaucoma.
Treatment for cataracts
Cataracts cannot be treated with medications.
For mild cases of cataract, lifestyle changes like using prescription glasses or improving the lighting at home can be adopted.
When even lifestyle changes can’t help to compensate the visual impairment, then surgery is the only way to treat cataract. During a cataract surgery, your eye surgeon will remove the eye’s cloudy natural lens and replace it with an artificial lens.
It Is a small operation and highly effective and safe. In experienced hands, the surgery may take only 30 minutes!
By : Dr Chen Yiming
Family Physician, MBBS (Singapore), GDFM (NUS), GDFP Dermatology (NUS)