One in four people over the age of 60 have signs of cataracts and should have their eyes examined regularly.
An examination by your optometrist will reveal any changes to the lens of the eye that may lead to cataracts before any symptoms appear.
A cataract is a cloudiness that forms in the lens of the eye, which over time grows larger making it difficult to see. Generally the development of cataracts is a gradual and painless deterioration in sight. Other symptoms can include blurred or hazy vision, spots before the eyes, double vision and increased sensitivity to glare. Surgery is usually performed when the patient’s vision starts to interfere with daily life. Most patients have a plastic lens inserted to replace their own lens, with almost all people having improved vision and quality of life afterward. Cataract surgery is now a relatively minor procedure that is safe and effective, often performed under local anaesthetic.
There is no proven method to prevent cataracts, though cigarette smoking and UV exposure increase your risk. A broad brimmed hat and sunglasses that meet Australian standards should be worn outdoors to reduce this risk.
It is estimated that over 50 per cent of Australians over the age of 70 have cataracts. Around 160, 000 cataract operations are performed annually.
It is expected that the number of people who will become blind from cataract will increase by 75 per cent by 2024, unless there is increased prevention activity.