Accessibility links

Cataracts a Leading Cause of Blindness: Doctor

Approximately 19,000 Cambodians are blinded each year from cataracts, a clouding of the lens common in the elderly, a US-Cambodian doctor said Thursday.

“The lens is the clear part of the eye that helps focus light or an image on the retina,” said Taing Tek Hong, a physician at the Borland-Groover clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., who was a guest on “Hello VOA.”

“In a normal eye, light passes through the transparent lens to the retina,” he said. “The lens must be clear for the retina to receive a sharp image. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred.”

The number of cases of blindness from cataracts accounts for a wide majority of cases, about 28,800 per year in Cambodia, he said.

Cataracts can be caused by a number of factors, including diabetes, family history, previous eye injury, exposure to sunlight and smoking. Some babies are born with congenital cataracts, often in both eyes.

Symptoms include clouded, blurred or dimmed vision, with vision impairment increasing after nightfall, he said. Eyes may become sensitive to light and glare, or a person may see halos around lights or need better light for reading. The color yellow may appear faded, or double vision can impair one eye.

A cataract can be detected in an eye examination by a specialist, using a variety of tests, the doctor said. An eye professional can also detect signs of “macular degeneration, glaucoma and other vision disorders,” he said.

Wearing sunglasses or a brimmed hat to block ultraviolet light from the sun can help prevent the condition. “If you smoke, stop,” Taing Tek Hong said.

“The only effective treatment for cataracts is surgery, which is recommended when cataracts begin to affect the quality of life or interfere with the ability to perform normal daily activities,” he said. “Cataract surgery is successful in about 95 percent of all cases, with improved vision.”