As we age, we’ll inevitably experience an array of physiological changes in our body. Some of the effects of ageing among the older population include eye health concerns. One common vision problem is cataract. Although cataract may occur at any age, they are prevalent in older people due to ageing.
The word cataract comes from the Greek word for “waterfall”. It was once believed that a milky substance “falling” into the eye caused cataracts. Today, a cataract is known as a gradual clouding of the eye’s lens, preventing sufficient light from entering the eye, thereby causing vision loss.
Not all cataracts are age-related. Here are some examples:
• Congenital cataracts appear in some babies or develop in childhood, often in both eyes.
• Traumatic cataracts can develop after an eye injury, or sometimes years later.
• Secondary cataract can form after surgery for other eye problems, such as glaucoma.
• Radiation cataract can develop after exposure to some types of radiation.
The risk of cataract increases with age. Cataracts are caused by a combination of factors. The contributing factors being the ageing of the eyes and exposure to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight. People living in sunny climates or spending a lot of time under prolonged exposure to the sun are at higher risk for cataracts. Other risk factors include genetic factors, certain health problems such as diabetes and chronic diseases, nutritional deficiencies, eye diseases, and use of steroids and certain medications.
To reduce the risks of developing cataract and other eye diseases, you can wear sunglasses with ultra-violet and blue-light filtering, or a wide-brimmed hat to protect your eyes from the sunlight’s damaging effects. Refrain from smoking and treat diseases such as diabetes. Eat a balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables like carrots, papayas, mangos, oranges, corn, and tomatoes, and dark leafy greens like spinach. These provide natural nutrient supplements which include adequate amounts of antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E.
People may not be aware that their eyes have developed cataracts as cataract is slow to develop and is not painful. The common symptoms of cataracts include cloudy or blurry vision, colours appearing faded, seeing glare, halos that appear around lights, and poor night vision. Other indications may include frequent prescription changes in eyeglasses due to increasing short-sightedness, difficulty in reading or watching television at night, and inability to judge distances or steps.
These symptoms vary individually, depending on the severity, location and type of cataract; or they can also signal other vision disorders. Do check with your eye care professional.
The early stages of cataracts may be managed with new eyeglasses, increasing the level of lighting, especially when reading, and using prescriptive sunglasses. The cataracts will usually progress as the lens become cloudier and opaque, and will eventually require surgery. With modern technology and innovation, cataracts are easily treated with surgery to remove the cloudy natural lens and replacing it with clear lens.
Our eyes keep us mobile and independent. Don’t let cataracts rob you of the gift of eyesight. Cataracts can be detected through a comprehensive eye examination. Do not dismiss and underestimate the eye problem when your vision becomes blurry. Get regular eye screening checks. Early detection for eye diseases and treatment can save your sight. Talk with an eye care professional, and read and learn about the condition to make informed decisions about cataract treatments with your doctor.
Text: Sharon Ong
The Big Book of Family Eye Care
Joe Di Girolamo
Call no.: 617.7 DIG -[HEA]
All rights reserved. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, 2011.
The Eye Care Revolution: Prevent and Reverse Common Vision Problems
Robert Abel, Jr., M.D.
Call no.: 617.7 ABE -[HEA]
All rights reserved. New York, NY: Kensington Books, 2014.
Nutrition and the Eye: Eating Your Way to Better Sight
Jerry Tan, Por Yong Ming
Call No.: SING 617.7 TAN
All rights reserved. Singapore: Jerry Tan Eye Surgery, 2012.
Retrieved from https://www.singhealth.com.sg/PatientCare/ConditionsAndTreatments/Pages/Cataracts.aspx on 20 August 2016
Facts about Cataract
The National Eye Institute (NEI)
Retrieved from https://nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts on 20 August 2016
This article is first published on Time of Your Life: Good Reads for the 50plus magazine, published by the National Library Board (NLB). Read the magazine here.
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