An ophthalmologist, Dr Francisca Ekwuribe, has said that smoking is a major risk for the development of cataract.

“Smoking destroys the antioxidants that help to maintain the transparency of the eye lens,’’ Ekwuribe told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos on Wednesday.

She said that smokers, especially heavy smokers, were at higher risk of getting nuclear cataract.

Ekwuribe defined cataract as the changes in the clarity of the natural lens inside the eye that gradually degrades visual quality.

“Cataract blocks and distort light passing through the lens causing various adverse visual symptoms,” she explained.

According to her, the lens is made mostly of water and protein with the protein responsible for the maintenance of eye clarity.

“However, over the years, the structure of these lens are altered leading to a gradual clouding of the lens, which in turn impedes vision.’’

She said that cataract was mostly found in the elderly from age 40, stressing that there were some rare cases, however, when cataract could affect children at birth or in early childhood as a result of hereditary enzyme defects.

Other factors that can lead to the development of cataract at an earlier age, she said, included having ailments such as? diabetics or habits such as smoking, and the taking of some medications.

The expert said that symptoms of cataract were usually gradual and painless as they were not associated with the redness of the eye unless they became extremely advanced.

“Although your doctor will be able to tell when you begin to develop cataract, but the patient will be the first person to notice changes in vision.

?“The major symptoms are difficulty in driving at night, blurriness of vision, difficulty in reading and other activities that require clear vision.’’

Ekwuribe said that at the early stage of cataract, vision could be improved by changing eye glasses prescription or by increasing lighting if the individual was involved in visual demanding tasks.

“In advanced cases, the only effective intervention is surgery, depending on the degree of visual limitation the individual experiences.’’

She advised Nigerians to have regular eye checks which would help to detect eye impediments before they got to advanced stages. (NAN)