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HEALTH Could you be developing a cataract?

Could you be developing a cataract?

Áine Higgins

As we get a little older, the lenses in our eyes start to change and become less transparent. A lens that has become cloudy is said to have a cataract, which is a very common eye condition.
Many people over the age of 65 will experience some changes to the lenses in their eyes and most of us will develop a cataract. While cataracts have many causes, growing older is the most common.
The symptoms of cataracts usually develop gradually over time and can include:
  • Smudgy looking glasses lenses
  • Needing a lot more light to read small print
  • More glare than usual from bright lights
There are some types of cataract that occur rapidly rather than over several years, but usually cataracts develop slowly. As the cataract worsens, clarity, brightness and colour contrast will all be reduced and eventually this will affect an individual’s quality of life. In particular, it can make it more difficult to drive at night.
Surgery is the only effective treatment for cataracts. The cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one that has been powered to give the best possible vision for distance.
The procedure only takes around 30 to 40 minutes, and many people are allowed to go home just a few hours later.
Cataracts can be diagnosed by your optician, and they can advise you if any further action is required. Some early cataracts tend to cause short-sightedness, and new glasses may be all that is needed to restore satisfactory vision for distance. Daylight reading lamps are also beneficial if near vision is affected, as they enhance contrast, don’t distort colours and produce a cleaner type of ‘cold’ light.
Your optician can provide advice and reassurance if you would like to know more about cataracts.

Áine Higgins is an optician based in Mongey’s Opticians, Castlebar and Ballinrobe. She was the first Irish optician to be nominated for the UK and Ireland Optician of the Year 2010.