Have you often heard of cataract but are unsure of what exactly it is? Read on to find out more!

What is cataract?

Cataract is the most common cause of blindness in the world. In Singapore, cataract affects about 80% of people above the age of 60 and up to 95% of people above the age of 70. 

Simply put, cataract is the clouding of the lens of your eye that is normally clear. This results in impaired vision as not enough light is able to enter the eye. Having cataract would be akin to seeing the world through a frosted or fogged-up glass. Cataract affects everyday activities such as reading and driving.

Cataract often progresses slowly and may not interfere with eyesight in early stages. However, as it develops it will start to disturb your vision more and more.

Cataract Signs and Symptoms

Initially, cataract symptoms may not be that noticeable as only a small part of the eye may be affected by the cataract. However, over time, as the cataract develops the signs would become more obvious.

Symptoms of cataract include:

  • Cloudy, blurred or dim vision 
  • Difficulty in seeing at night that worsens over time
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • Needing brighter light for daily activities such as reading
  • Seeing “halos” around light sources
  • Fading or yellowing of colours
  • Double vision in one eye

A common sign of cataract would be blurred vision that cannot be corrected with the usual corrective visual aids such as glasses.

Upon noticing any change in your vision, it is important to see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

Causes of cataract

Cataract usually affects the elderly, however, it can occur in young people and even children as well. Cataract formation in the elderly is usually linked to ageing. For young people, cataract formation could be due to eye injury, other eye conditions or genetic predisposition. 

There are various risk factors that could contribute to cataract formation.

These include:

  • Age
  • Diabetes
  • Prolonged usage of corticosteroid medications
  • Excessive exposure to UV light
  • Diabetes
  • Previous eye injury or inflammation
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Smoking

Treatment of cataract

Cataracts cannot be cured with medication. Adjustments to your lifestyle can be adopted at earlier stages to help counteract the effects. Such changes include changing your spectacle lens power, using brighter lighting at home, wearing sunglasses outside during the day and avoiding night driving as far as possible.

However, when cataract starts to interfere with everyday activities, cataract surgery would be required. Cataract surgery is minimally invasive, painless and safe. During the surgery, the clouded lens is removed and replaced with a clear lens implant. After the procedure, your eye will fully heal in 1-2 months.

It is important to consult your eye doctor with regards to the progression of your cataract. If cataracts are left too long, they can become hypermature, making them slightly more challenging to remove in surgery, although they can still be removed safely.

Can cataract be prevented?

While there is no way to completely prevent formation of cataract, there are some things you can do to help prolong your healthy eyesight, such as:

  • Eating foods rich in antioxidants, vitamin A, C and vitamin E
  • Quitting smoking
  • Wearing sunglasses that block out UV rays and at least 75% of visible light