Cataract is one of the leading causes of preventable blindness globally. The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted that 50% of blindness globally are attributed to cataracts. So what are cataracts? Simply put, cataracts occur when there is the clouding or yellowing of the natural lens within the eye. As we age, it is very normal to develop some form of cataract.
Symptoms of cataract include gradual blurring of vision or a hazy vision, seeing halos around lights especially at night, colours looking more faded, requiring additional lights for reading and frequent changes in your eye prescription. Some factors that can contribute to cataract include age, UV exposure, smoking, a person’s overall health, trauma and prolonged steroid use.
Currently, the only way to effectively remove a cataract is through a surgery called phacoemulsification, where the eye’s natural lens is removed using ultrasound vibrations to break the lens into smaller pieces and then suctioned out. Thereafter, an artificial intraocular lens will be placed into the eye to replace the removed lens to restore vision.
There are several types of cataract but the 3 most common types are:
- Nuclear sclerotic cataract
- Cortical cataract
- Posterior subcapsular cataract
Other less common types of cataract include:
- Trauma-related ones where a cataract forms post-trauma for eg after being hit in the eye by a ball.
- Congenital cataract which occurs in children usually due to genetics, so they may be born with it.
There is currently no prevention for cataracts but there are a few ways to slow down the progression:
Firstly, UV protection is key especially when we live in Singapore with constant exposure to the sun. You can protect yourself from the sun by doing simple things like wearing sunglasses and/or using a hat when you are out and about. The lesser exposure to UV rays, the slower the development of cataract. Think of it like cooking an egg – the egg white is transparent before heat is being applied. The more intense the heat is, the faster the white will cook and turn to opaque white from transparent. The same analogy applies, if there is increased UV exposure to the eyes, the natural lens which is transparent can turn cloudy faster. It is therefore advisable to protect your eyes using proper UV-blocking sunglasses and hats.
Secondly, making dietary changes like increasing the intake of Vitamin C and E. It has been proven that increasing the consumption of vitamin-rich foods can slow down cataract development. Vitamin C, an antioxidant which can be found in the eye, aids in the normal function of the eye. By increasing the intake of citrus foods like oranges and capsicum, this would further boost the nutrients in the eye. Additionally, consuming nuts and leafy greens which contain vitamin E, can also help to combat harmful sun rays which cause damage to the tissue of the eyes.
Other than dietary changes, lifestyle changes may also help in slowing the development of cataract. Studies have shown that smoking is a risk factor that is linked to increased cataract formation. As such, reduce or quit smoking to protect your eyes.
Next is to maintain your blood sugar level. Studies have shown that there is an association between uncontrolled blood sugar levels and early cataract formation. When a person is diabetic, there would be an increase in sugar levels throughout the entire body, including the eye. The blood sugar converts into sorbitol (a type of carbohydrate called a sugar alcohol) and enters the lens. Sorbitol that is inside the lens for a prolonged period would cause a change in the lens shape and this causes an alteration to your vision, hence you might have complaints of blurring vision.
Finally, and most importantly, it is to have a regular thorough eye examination with an ophthalmologist. Everyone above the age of 40 years old should have an annual eye check to ensure your eyes are well-monitored not just for cataract but also for other eye conditions including glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration so that any changes can be picked up early and treated accordingly.
Contact us at +65 6648 1000 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment.