Should I be concerned about cataract – the world’s leading cause of reversible blindness?

Cataract is the term used for the natural lens of the eye when it becomes cloudy or opaque. The lens is located in the front of the eye behind the iris (the coloured part of the eye). It helps to focus images correctly on the retina. The lens should be clear or transparent in order for us to see clearly.

If you have a cataract, your lens becomes cloudy. It is like looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield. The symptoms will include blurry vision, seeing double, increased sensitivity to light, trouble seeing well at night, needing more light to read and seeing bright colours as faded.

The most common cause of cataract is ageing. This happens at around 40 years of age due to change in the lens’ proteins. This change can be triggered by factors like diabetes or the usage of certain medications. Trauma and sun exposure, such as UV damage to the lens could also cause this condition. Cataracts can be seen in newborn babies which is known as a congenital cataract. This requires immediate surgery within the first 6-8 weeks of life.

Cataract surgery has evolved tremendously and is now one of the most routinely performed procedures by ophthalmologists. It is a day case procedure; the procedure itself takes 15-25 minutes and can be done safely under local anaesthesia or general anaesthesia, depending on patient and/or surgeon preference. Once the surgery is completed, patients can return to routine daily activity within a few days.

The artificial lens (commonly known as intraocular lens - IOL) is the replacement for the natural lens.

The risk of cataracts is much higher among the large community of people with diabetes in the GCC - those with type 2 diabetes statistically face a 60 per cent greater risk of developing cataracts.

Dr Irfan Khan is consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai