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Eye health check: Cataracts

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness globally. According to data released by Medibank in 2018, more than 700,000 Australians suffer from cataracts. We share what cataracts are, how they occur and how you can treat this eye health issue.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye. The lens is a transparent, flexible tissue that sits directly behind the iris and pupil of the eye.

The purpose of the lens is to help focus light and images. As a cataract forms, less light enters the eye, and more light is needed to see.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

Those with cataracts suffer from clouded vision, like looking through fogged-up glass. Cataract patients struggle to see detail, and driving at night is particularly challenging, due to the glare from oncoming headlights.

Other cataract symptoms may include sensitivity to light, seeing ‘halos’ around lights, frequent changes in lens prescriptions, fading colours – often with a yellow hue – and double vision in a single eye.

Cataracts most commonly affect both eyes; however, they can advance at different paces.

What causes cataracts?

Cataracts are an eye health issue where proteins and fibres in the lens break down, affecting the tissue of the eye lens.

According to the Mayo Clinic, as the cataract develops, the clouding becomes denser. A cataract scatters and blocks the light as it passes through the lens, preventing a sharply defined image from reaching your retina.


As a result, your vision becomes blurred. Age and injury are the most common causes of cataracts, which develop slowly. In time, cataracts interfere with your vision. Patients with other genetic disorders or health conditions may be at an increased risk of developing cataracts.

Identifying cataracts

Cataracts are diagnosed via an eye test conducted by an optometrist. They examine the eye’s lens using a specialised magnifying instrument called a slit lamp, biomicroscope or ophthalmoscope.

Additional tests we conduct at Ian Donald Optometrists may include a visual acuity test (the test where you’re asked to identify letters that get smaller and smaller), a retinal exam or tonometry, which measures the fluid in your eye.

Treating cataracts

Fortunately, advances in ophthalmic research and technology for cataracts mean that this eye condition can be effectively treated. This treatment may include recommendations for better lighting for strenuous eye activities like reading or screen time or, in more severe cataract cases, safe and effective surgery.

In fact, according to Medibank, in 2015-2016, cataract removal was one of the most common elective surgeries taking place nationally.

Regular eye health checks are essential in maintaining eye care, especially if you are predisposed to eye conditions or other chronic illnesses. Make an appointment and chat with our eye experts.


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