Cataracts are cloudy patches that develop in the clear lens inside your eye, stopping some of the light from reaching the back of the eye, and causing blurred or misty vision. They are very common, especially among older Australians.
InAustralia, it is estimated that around 31 per cent of people aged 55 or older have some degree of visual impairment caused by cataracts.
Cataracts develop over many years and, though problems may at first be unnoticeable, there are some early warning signs that can alert you to this vision problem.
One of the first symptoms you may notice is that your vision is blurred, much like looking through a cloudy piece of glass.
A cataract can make the light from the sun or even a lamp feel too bright or glaring. Or you may notice that when you drive at night the oncoming headlights cause more glare than before. Colours may not appear as bright as they once did.
Another symptom can include finding it difficult to see in dim or very bright light.
The symptoms you experience will be directly related to the type of cataract that you have.
Types of cataracts include:
- A subcapsular cataract occurs at the back of the lens. People with diabetes or those taking high doses of steroid medications have a greater risk of developing a subcapsular cataract.
- A nuclear cataract forms deep in the central zone (nucleus) of the lens. Nuclear cataracts are usually associated with ageing.
- A cortical cataract is characterised by white, wedge-like opacities that start in the periphery of the lens and work their way to the centre in a spoke-like fashion. This type of cataract occurs in the lens cortex, which is the part of the lens that surrounds the central nucleus.
If you have a nuclear cataract you may experience a temporary improvement in your near vision known as ‘second sight’. This improvement will fade as the cataract worsens, however.
A subcapsular cataract might not have any symptoms until it is well-developed, after which it can develop much more rapidly.
If you think you have a cataract, book an appointment with an optometrist for an exam to find out for sure.
Have you ever had cataract surgery? Do you have a family history of cataracts? Are you worried about vision problems as you age?