A cataract is a clouding of the lens. The optic lens is a transparent structure in the eyes which focuses light onto the retina; the transparency of the lens is important because it allows light into your eye so that you can see. A cataract occurs when the lens begins to cloud and becomes more opaque, allowing less light into your eye. Cataracts are thought to be the leading cause of blindness, according to one study, accounting for a third of all cases globally.
At Kings Hill Opticians, we typically see around 100 cataracts a year among our patients from Kings Hill, Maidstone, Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks and West Malling.
Cataract is a multifactorial disease, with several risk factors increasing the likelihood of development. Prevalence increases with age and the condition is more common in women than in men. Other factors which increase the chance of development include:
Initial symptoms include:
If it feels like you are wearing glasses that need cleaning, even if you don’t or they have been cleaned, then you may need to seek medical advice.
Retinoscopy is an important test in detecting the effect of cataracts, which is traditionally performed with a retinoscope; a simple light is shone into the eye which an optometrist uses to determine a suitable prescription for your lenses by observing the way in which your optic lens refracts the light. This procedure, which is a routine part of all standard eye tests, can also reveal cataracts.
In many practises, the use of a retinoscope has been phased out in favour of an Autorefractor, which is helpful in determining your prescription. However, it doesn’t allow you an opportunity to clinically assess the reflex to detect any cataracts and the impact on your vision, that’s why we stick with the old-school retinoscope.
The main ways to reduce your chances of developing cataracts are to manage your risk factors. If you smoke, try to stop or reduce how many cigarettes you take each day. If you have Type 2 diabetes, do what you can to reduce your symptoms, keep fit and try to eat a balanced diet. You can read more about the effects of diabetes on your eyes here and Diabetes UK has lots of helpful information on managing your condition.
UVB light is strongly linked to cataract development, so ensure that you shield your eyes; wear a protective hat or polarizing sunglasses such as our stunning Maui Jim sunglasses, with or without a prescription.
As you get older, cataracts get worse and it may be time to think about treatment. Currently, surgery is the only treatment that’s proven to be effective at curing cataracts, and is the most common operation performed in the UK according to the NHS. No scientific evidence suggests that medicines or eyedrops are effective at improving cataracts.
Cataract surgery usually only takes 30 to 45 minutes and is performed under local anaesthetic. This means you should be able to go home the same day as the operation, which involves making a tiny incision into the eye to remove the clouded lens and replace it with a transparent plastic one. These replacement lenses are usually monofocal – meaning they have a single point of focus, near or far. If you go private, you may be able to choose a multifocal, astigmatic or accommodating lens, which may allow the eye to focus on both near and far objects.
Cataracts are a real risk to a high proportion of people living in the UK, but modern surgery is a safe and reliable solution. If we identify that you have or are developing cataracts, we will ensure that you are referred to the correct medical professional to ensure you enjoy the best eye health possible.
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