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Living in South Australia, with its abundant sunshine and outdoor activities is great, but it also means an increased risk of sun damage, and that damage can lead to the development of cataracts.

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Cataracts are a common eye condition where the eye’s lens starts to become cloudy making it hard to see.

What are Cataracts?

Cataracts are usually the result of ageing, but environmental factors, such as sun exposure, can accelerate their development.

Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can damage parts of the lens of your eye leading to the formation of a cataract and blurred or cloudy vision. This is usually a gradual process, and symptoms may not be immediately noticeable.


If the cataract is developing in only one eye, then you may not notice the effects until the cataract has progressed significantly.

You may start to have difficulty reading, recognising faces, driving, or watching television. And your vision may be worse in bright light, particularly if the central part of the lens is clouded. Some people experience double vision and see haloes. You may notice a fading or yellowing of colours and starbursts around lights.

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Who develops cataracts?

Most of us will develop cataracts as we move to old age. Cataracts normally develop in both eyes, but they may develop at different rates, and it’s possible to develop cataracts in only one eye.

It’s rare for people under the age of 40 to have cataracts, but by the age of 70, most people will have developed some degree of cataracts.

And women aged 65 and older are slightly more likely to have developed cataracts than men (10.6% versus 7.4%).

You’re more at risk if you:
  • smoke
  • have had eye injuries
  • have diabetes
  • have a family history of cataracts
  • spend prolonged time in the sun without suitable eye protection.
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How do you know if you have cataracts?

Your optometrist can detect the early signs of cataracts, sometimes before you are aware of any symptoms.

Can you prevent cataracts?

You can’t entirely prevent cataracts developing but you may be able to slow their progression by:

  • Wearing sunglasses
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Eating plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Controlling your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.
How do you treat cataracts?

Most cataracts develop slowly, so corrective glasses or contact lenses may be all you need to improve your vision in the early stages. If the cataracts are caused by diabetes, you may be able to correct them by controlling your blood sugar levels.

Schedule routine eye examinations with your optometrist to monitor your eye health. Regular check-ups enable early detection and intervention for any eye conditions, including cataracts.

Surgery is currently the only successful treatment for cataracts and is the most frequently performed surgical procedure worldwide.

Surgery used to be done only when the cataract had matured and was causing vision loss, but you can have a cataract removed in the early stages of development, when it is causing subtle changes to vision. Removal at this stage can reduce the length of surgery and the recovery time.

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Check Your Medications

Some medications have side effects that accelerate cataract development. If you take one of these, talk to your doctor about alternatives that will not make your cataracts worse. If there isn’t an alternative, then avoid the sun even more strictly. Wear sunglasses and a hat, and get regular optometrist checks of your cataracts.

Don’t Use Steroid Eye Drops

These drops reduce inflammation and can help with dry eyes and arthritis of the eyes, but they can also speed up the progression of cataracts if you have them. If you need eye drops, see your optometrist for regular eye checks.

Dehydration can also cause your cataracts to develop more quickly, so drink plenty of water and avoid too much alcohol. Smoking also makes it more likely cataracts will progress.