• Cataracts are a type of vision disturbance that causes the natural lens within the eye to become cloudy and blurry. They are the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide [1], a condition our optometrists frequently see in our clinics. While most cataracts are related to ageing and are treated in older adults, children and young adults can develop them too, either from birth or due to other medical or genetic conditions, injuries, or certain medications.

  • As cataracts are one of many causes of vision disturbances, it’s important to book in with an eye care professional if you notice blurring, haziness or cloudiness in your vision, even if it’s mild.


How Does A Cataract Form?

  • While it may feel like a cloudy coating on the outside of the eyeball, cataracts occur when there is a problem within the lens of your eye:

  • - The lens of the eye, also known medically as the crystalline lens, is an essential part of the eye that allows it to focus on objects at different distances. It is located towards the front of the eyeball and resembles a deflated ball, and is clear and transparent, to allow light to enter the eye

  • - The lens's job is to focus light to create the sharp images we see. It’s very flexible, so it can change shape: it can stretch and thin out when focusing on distant objects or shrink and thicken when focusing on near objects

  • - This movement can bend the light to focus correctly on the retina, a thin layer of tissue that lines the back of the inside of your eye, absorbs the light that comes into your eye and send this visual information to your brain along the optic nerve

  • - The lens is made up almost entirely of lens fibres and is known as crystallines

  • Cataracts can form within the lens of your eye and prevent light rays from travelling through your lens to the retina in two key ways:

  1. Most cataracts form when the fibres within the lens become hardened as a natural result of ageing, and as a result, the central part of the lens, known as the nucleus, can become compressed, which is known medically as nuclear sclerosis

  2. Alongside hardening fibres, the crystalline proteins in the lens can begin to break down and clump together and take on a yellow or even brown colour, making the lens less transparent and blocking light rays from entering the eyeball


Causes And Risk Factors For Cataracts

  • While the majority of cataracts cases our eye care professionals see are linked to ageing, other factors that may put you at risk include:[2]

  • - A previous eye injury or eye surgery

  • - Prior radiation therapy on their upper body

  • - High amounts of sun exposure to the eyes without adequate protection

  • - Steroids for conditions such as arthritis or asthma

  • - Previous eye inflammation

  • - Sedentary lifestyle

  • - Smoking or a high intake of alcohol

  • - A deficiency in particular specific vitamins such as lutein, zeaxanthin or zinc

  • - A family history of cataracts

A number of health conditions can also increase your risk of developing cataracts, including:[3]

  • - High blood pressure, obesity or diabetes

  • - Dermatitis

  • - Myotonic dystrophy

  • - Type 2 neurofibromatosis

  • - Hypoparathyroidism

  • - Chronic anterior uveitis

  • - Myopia (nearsightedness)


Symptoms Of Cataracts

  • In its early stages, a cataract often does not have any symptoms, or they may be so subtle that they’re unnoticeable until a person’s eyesight or eye health is assessed in an eye exam with an optometrist. However, a cataract may grow larger over time and affect more of the lens, making it harder for the patient to see. Some people only develop a cataract in one eye, though many will eventually develop it in both eyes.

  • While each person may experience cataracts differently, many of the most common symptoms include:

  • - Cloudy vision: at first, your vision may appear slightly blurry, as if you are looking through a camera that needs to be focused, and this can worsen over time

  • - Faded colours: colours may appear faded or less vibrant, as the white shade of cataracts can dull their vibrancy

  • - Yellow or brown tinges: as cataracts progress, the clumps of crystallins can develop a yellow or even brown hue, which can result in everything you see being tinted yellow as if you are wearing coloured sunglasses, changing your colour perception and preventing you from seeing the difference between different colours

  • - Light sensitivity: cataracts can make glare or bright lights uncomfortable or even painful

  • - Halos: when the lens of your eye becomes cloudy, it’s difficult for light to enter it and reach your retina, and it may enter at the edges and make it appear as if light sources such as oncoming car lights or street lights have halos surrounding them - yet another reason why driving in the dark with cataracts can be dangerous.

  • - Needing stronger glasses: if you find yourself feeling like you need stronger contact lenses or glasses to see clearly, you may have developed cataracts, so purchasing a stronger pair of glasses from the supermarket won’t resolve the issue

  • - Double vision: as light cannot enter the eyeball easily, it can result in double vision, or seeing two or more visions of a certain object


Don’t Delay Treatment: Get Your Eyes Checked Today

  • If you’re noticing the symptoms of cataracts and are concerned, or want to rule out anything more serious, then start with an appointment with your optometrist. While many people are unaware that they’ve developed cataracts, it’s encouraging to know that cataracts can be detected in the earliest stages with a comprehensive eye exam. We recommend seeing an optometrist annually to keep an eye on your vision and eye health or more regularly if you are experiencing any changes in your vision. Your optometrist will work with you to assess the health of your eyes and rule out something more serious, giving you assurance and peace of mind - or forming a clear pathway to treat the underlying problem promptly.


Book your appointment with one of our experienced optometrists at your local centre.


[1] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8724222/proteins

[2] https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/cataracts

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539699/