A cataract is the clouding of the lens in the eye. The lens is
normally clear. It is not a film over the lens.
What to look for
impaired vision at night;
difficulty in discerning movements, details, or objects.
blinding or uncomfortable
glare from automobile headlights or bright sunlight.
seeing halos around
unexpected improvement in
double or triple vision
in one eye only.
in an advanced case, a
milky white or opaque appearance to the normally transparent lens of the eye
painful inflammation and
pressure within the eye (very advanced case).
The lens of the human eye
focuses light so that you can see objects clearly at various distances. It has no blood
supply of its own; therefore, when it is damaged it cannot form new cells and responds by
becoming opaque, forming a cataract. The cataract causes a gradual and painless loss of
Despite how common the
disease is, it is actually one of the less serious eye disorders, because surgery can
restore the lost sight in most cases.
The most common cause is
aging. If this is the case, the centre of the lens will be affected first. There is vision
for several years until the whole lens is affected.
Some people are born with
cataracts due to an injury or disease while in the womb.
Exposure to bright sunlight
can react with the protein in the lens and create cataracts earlier than usual as well as
cigarette smoke, air pollution, vitamin deficiencies, and heavy alcohol consumption. A low
level of calcium in the blood can cause this complaint, sudden increases in blood sugar
levels in young people can result in a clouding of the lens. They can develop as a result
of accidents, sports injuries and exposure to electromagnetic, microwave or infra-red
radiation. Short-sightedness can also contribute to the development of
By shining a pen-light on
your pupil, your doctor may detect the cataract. Using special instruments and techniques,
your ophthalmologist will identify its precise character, location, and extent.
You will need
to visit an optometrist who can diagnose cataracts and give you the best
advice about relief. At present the only
corrective treatment for a developed cataract is surgery. However, both conventional and
complimentary therapies are seeking ways to prevent cataract formation.
Cataract surgery is one of
the most successful of all operations.
The operation, usually
performed under local anaesthesia on an outpatient basis, is safe, fast, and nearly
The single most important
thing you can do to prevent cataract development is to avoid bright sunlight outdoors by
wearing sunglasses that filter out UVB. Dark glasses that do not filter out UVB can
actually increase your risk, because your pupils widen to adjust to the decreased light,
thus exposing your eyes to more of the dangerous UVB radiation.
reduce free radicals (unstable chemical compounds) that can damage lens protein,
may offer some protection against cataract development by lessening or retarding protein deterioration in
the lens brought on by environmental factors.
may recommend a
diet high in fruits and vegetables containing antioxidants such as beta carotene (vitamin A), selenium, and vitamins C and E,
including citrus fruits, spinach, sweet potatoes, carrots, and broccoli.
It is best to consult with your health care practitioner to ascertain the
best course of action for your particular case.
When to seek further