05.11.2018 Health News

Spotting cataract symptoms

Lack of awareness of cataract symptoms leads to fear

Older Australians are living in fear of losing independence, mobility and doing the things they love due to sight loss from cataracts, with one in five becoming depressed after diagnosis.

Recent research found that while four in five Australians had heard of cataracts, only one in three knew how to spot the symptoms.

A cataract is a clouding of the clear lens in the eye and is one of the leading causes of vision impairment in Australia. It’s estimated more than 700,000 Australians are living with cataracts today.

Dr Con Moshegov, a Sydney-based ophthalmologist, said people need to be more aware of how to spot cataracts and when to speak to an eye doctor.

“Despite the large impact on Australians, awareness and understanding of cataracts is low with significant gaps in knowledge that are impacting the quality of life of many Aussies,” said Dr Moshegov.

“By recognising symptoms and diagnosing cataracts, Australians can be more informed around how to manage the condition and improve their quality of life.”

The report based on interviews with 1226 adults found that when vision was restored, people who had cataract surgery most commonly reported feeling much happier (54%), regaining their confidence / self esteem (40%) and feeling useful again (30%).

Dr Moshegov said many people diagnosed with the condition were putting it off surgery for too long and the best solution was to treat it early, as treatment could help with multiple eye conditions, such as presbyopia (age-related far-sightedness).

“If left untreated for too long, cataracts can lead to blindness. Surgery is the only way to remove cataracts.

“Many Australians would be more likely to have surgery for cataracts if they knew the surgery could treat other eye conditions that meant they wouldn’t need to wear glasses, for example, presbyopia, short sightedness, and astigmatism.”

According to former cataract sufferer, Geraldine Douglas, 63, (pictured) a botanical artist from Melbourne, before surgery, cataracts caused her eyesight to slowly deteriorate, leaving her frustrated and apathetic.

“You take for granted the layers of enjoyment you feel from seeing the sparkle on leaves, ripples on water and glistening reflections,” said Mrs Douglas.

“Once you have cataracts, the definition slowly fades away. You don’t realise what you’re losing until it’s gone.”

Mrs Douglas’ work as a botanical artist requires great attention to detail. Eventually, her cataracts meant she could no longer pursue her art. Fortunately, she recognised the symptoms and had surgery after cataracts were diagnosed in both eyes.

The focus on detail that she regained allowed her to renew her passion in her work.

“When I had cataracts, I had great difficulty differentiating hues, which massively affected my paintings. Looking back, I’m going to have to work on them!”