“In Singapore, the percentage of elderly patients affected by cataracts is about 78.6%. The number of people affected increases as they get older (It affects 63.6% of people between 60 and 64 years, and 94.6% of people 75 years and older.)”*
A cataract is the clouding of the crystalline lens in the eye. This natural lens is usually clear and enables light to pass through into the eye for clear vision.
The most common cause of this condition is age-related changes in the eye. Types of cataracts include posterior subcapsular, nuclear, anterior and cortical. As the eye ages, the lens material hardens and yellows. If not removed, it will continue to become more and more opaque and may cause blindness eventually. This condition can be treated through surgery.
Common symptoms include one or more of the following:
– Blurring of near and distant vision
– Seeing glares, especially in dimly lit areas
– Colours becoming more dull or less vibrant
– Sensitivity to light
– Frequent changes in glasses prescription
These symptoms can adversely affect vision. Due to these changes, affected persons may find daily activities inconvenient. Activities such as reading the newspaper and watching the television may become chores rather than pleasures. Night driving becomes difficult as visibility drops and the eye sees glare from street lamps and oncoming car headlights.
Consequently, one’s quality of life becomes affected. That being said, when a symptoms causes inconvenience to a person, doctors would recommend a surgery. Surgery is a 20-minute day surgery that is Medisave claimable, and in most cases insurance claimable.
Cataract is an age-related condition. That being said, most people will begin to develop cataracts later in their lives. However, high myopia, acute angle closure glaucoma and chronic anterior uveitis may also cause this condition prematurely.
Other factors include:
– Traumatic injuries to the eye
– Long-term steroid treatment for autoimmune diseases or after organ transplantation
More uncommon causes include concussion, exposure to ionizing irradiation for ocular tumours and long-term intake of certain medications.
The single most effective method to restore vision due to a cataract is to undergo a surgery. This involves the removal of the opaque lens and replacing it with an artificial intraocular lens implant (IOL). Learn more about surgery here.
When a cataract begins to affect daily activity, one can consider having a surgery to remove it. Do not wait too long to have the surgery. In advanced stages of cataract, the lens may begin to harden, which makes it more difficult to remove.
In recent years, more patients and surgeons agree that surgery can be done even in the early to moderate stages. As a guide, one should consider undergoing surgery if the symptoms begin to affect the quality of vision adversely such that day-to-day activities can no longer be done with ease.
Greater reliance on technology and later retirement ages has increased the need for good vision in our daily lives. Undergoing surgery earlier means restoring good vision sooner. With the availability of various types of lens implants, surgeons and patients can together make a better decision on the best-suited lens for each individual.
A cataract should not be removed at a hypermature stage also because the lens may start to leak inflammatory materials which can lead to a secondary glaucoma.
Not sure if you have cataracts? Need advise choosing an intraocular lens?
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