The case about cataracts

Photo by David Travis

Out of all the physical senses that help us interact with the world, sight is the most important.

Many folks take for granted the importance of sight; whether it’s reading road signs or novels, watching hockey or the sunrise, or the small joy of looking into the eyes of a loved one.

But with age comes a rising chance for vision issues. According to a 2020 Study by Statistics Canada, individuals reported an increase in vision problems starting at 40 years of age. This increase plateaus at around 60 years of age, with 70 to 80 per cent of respondents reporting vision problems.

There are a number of effects and symptoms of the aging process on vision. They range from difficulty reading smaller print, a loss of depth perception or ability to judge distance, dry or watery eyes and difficulty in seeing contrasts or colour.

These symptoms and many others can be caused by various conditions. You’ve probably heard of conditions like glaucoma, macular degeneration or floaters, but June is the month where we specifically recognize a very common vision issue in older adults: cataracts.

What is a cataract?

The word is often thrown around, but how much do you know about what a cataract actually is?

Cataracts occur naturally as an individual ages, according to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). Just behind a person’s iris, there is a clear lens that focuses light on the retina — the part of your eye at the very back which receives visual information.

This lens is made of various proteins and as a person gets older, so do these proteins. They can become clouded due to age or a variety of other, environmental factors, such as eye injuries, UV radiation from the sun or intersecting conditions like diabetes.

Aging, however, is the most common ways for cataracts to develop and the CNIB states that it’s possible to develop age-related cataracts as early as 40 years old. They can progress slowly and have a variety of symptoms, which include:

  • Colours that appear dull or faded
  • Blurry or double vision
  • Glares or “halos” around light sources or increased sensitivity to light
  • Frequently changing prescriptions for one’s glasses

Reducing Risk

Individuals are at higher risk if they smoke, drink excessive alcohol or have consistent exposure to the sun. However, there are many ways to reduce one’s risk according to Health Canada.

Stop smoking or excessive alcohol consumption! Not only will this help you prevent cataracts and other vision problems, but it’s also mentioned in almost every single health and wellness related article this author has ever written while working at the Kerby News. Not once has this author written something related to wellness and had any doctor or scientist recommend smoking or alcohol.

Wear sunglasses or other eye protection on the daily. UV rays from the sun can harm your eyes, even on the cloudiest of days. Sunglasses should provide 99 to 100 per cent UV-A and UV-B protection, according to Health Canada.

A healthy diet with plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables will not only prevent vision problems, but it will also help with dozens of other issues related to physical and mental wellness.

Thankfully, even if an individual develops cataracts, cataract surgery is one of the most common and successful vision-related interventions.

Cataracts can be removed and sight restored, and surgery is recommended if your vision issues interfere with daily activities, according to the NCIB.

If you are reading these risk factors and symptoms and they are starting to seem familiar, see an eye doctor or your family practitioner for a possible diagnosis.