What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens within the eye. Your vision becomes blurred because the cataract is like frosted glass, interfering with your sight. Contrary to popular belief, cataract is not a layer of skin that grows over your eye.
If your doctor or optician has told you that you have a cataract, do not be alarmed. Many people over 60 have some cataract and the vast majority of these people can be successfully treated. Early cataracts may not affect your sight, and therefore do not require treatment.
If your cataract is impairing your vision, and is causing great annoyance or interfering with your daily routine, e.g. if you are a lorry driver and it’s affecting your driver vision, or if you enjoy arts and crafts such as needlework and can no longer do so, then you meet the criteria for being assessed for cataract removal. On the other hand if your vision is simply a little blurred but does not hinder your daily routine, you will be advised that there is no need for cataract removal.
As we age, cataracts will mature, and get denser and denser until vision becomes foggy and blurry. However, in individuals suffering from poor health, the rate of the cataract maturing tends to increase. Certain medications can speed up the process such as steroids, as can some medical conditions for example poorly controlled diabetes.
Can I Prevent a Cataract?
There are various supplements and eye drops in the marketplace, which claim to help slow the progression of cataracts. However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that any of these can prevent or treat cataracts (College of Optometrists, 2011). The best advice to prevent cataracts or to stop them getting worse, is not to smoke and to wear good quality sunglasses with full UVA and UVB protection.
Driving with a Cataract
If your cataract is impairing your vision, and you have been informed by your optician that your eyesight is below the legal standard for driving; you should not be driving.
The Cataract Treatment Process
If your optician informs you that you have a cataract that requires treatment, they will write a letter to your GP requesting a referral to Mr Paul Mullaney the local Ophthalmologist at Sligo General Hospital. He will confirm the diagnosis, assess the cataract and check your suitability for surgery. If you are a suitable candidate, you will then be placed on the waiting list for cataract removal. Surgery is carried out in Sligo General Hospital. The waiting time for cataract surgery is approximately 3 months.
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