Cataract is the most common cause of blindness in South Africa, according to South African Optometric Association (SAOA).

Cataract is the clouding of the lens inside the eye which leads to decreased or reduced in vision either in one or both eyes. The lens is the transparent structure of the eye that sits just behind the pupil (the black dot in the centre of your eye). It allows light to get to the back of the eye (retina). Cataract cannot spread from one eye to the other, adds SAOA.

Causes of Cataract

The lens of the eyes is made mostly of water and protein. Cataracts happen when there is a build-up of protein in the lens, making the lens cloudy. This makes the lens to lose its transparency preventing light from passing clearly through the lens, causing some loss of vision.

Types of cataracts

  • Age-related cataracts.This type of cataract develops as a result of aging. The risk of having a cataract increases after age 60, and by age 80,
  • Congenital cataracts.Babies are sometimes born with cataracts as a result of an infection, injury, or poor development before they were born, or they may develop cataracts during childhood.
  • Secondary cataracts.These develop as a result of other medical conditions, like diabetes, or exposure to toxic substances, ultraviolet light, or radiation.
  • Traumatic cataracts.These form after injury to the eye.


Risks of getting Cataract

According to the SAOA, other factors that may increase the risk of developing cataract include:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Diabetes
  • Being in the sun for a long time
  • History of cataracts in your family
  • Poor diet that is lacking in vitamins

Symptoms of cataract

The SAOA says cataract usually form slowly and may cause few unnoticeable changes to the vision. But the symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision, as if looking through a foggy window
  • Colours not appearing as bright as they once did leading to difficulty in appreciating colours and changes in contrast, driving, and reading.
  • Problems driving at night such as glare from oncoming headlights and lights in general.
  • Double vision
  • Difficulty in reading


Diagnosis and Treatment of Cataracts

Regular eye examination is important and cataract screening is part of the examination.

Surgery has been proven to be effective in treating cataract. This will usually be recommended if the loss of vision is so bad that it negatively affects a person’s daily activities, such as driving or reading.

SAMWUMED Optometry (Eye) Benefits

SAMWUMED members are able to go for eye examinations as part of their medical aid benefits