When the normally clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy, this is known as a cataract. Having a cataract is like looking through a dirty window, with the impact on your vision increasing as it grows.
Cataract is the most common eye disease in older Australians, accounting for 12% of cases of blindness in this age group (1).
While most cataracts are found in people over the age of 50, cataracts can also occur in younger people.
Cataracts are not usually painful, and they cannot be seen on the surface of the eye. Symptoms include:
You may notice that you are having trouble driving at night, or reading.
One of the reasons we recommend regular optometrist appointments particularly if you are over the age of 55, is because a cataract exam is just one of the tests conducted during a routine eye checkup. At time of writing, Medicare covers the cost of an annual eye examination only in those aged over 65 (2).
The cataract exam involves the optometrist studying your retina using a slit lamp; special eye drops may be administered first, to dilate your pupils and allow a clearer view.
Glasses and other visual aids may be enough to keep the symptoms at bay. Special tints can often improve vision and UV protection can help to slow the progress of cataracts.
For most people, there is no rush to remove cataracts with surgery as they are normally slow growing – however people with uncontrolled diabetes can have a more rapid growth. Your optometrist will guide you when cataract surgery is right for you.
If you choose not to undergo cataract surgery now, your optometrist will recommend periodic follow-up exams to see if your cataracts are progressing.
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