Information

Cataract

Below is information about the condition and how best to treat it. A PDF version is available at the bottom of the page.


What are they?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in your eye and can develop in one or both of your eyes. The lens is normally clear and sits behind the iris, the coloured part of the eye. The lens helps focus light to produce a sharp image on to the retina at the back of the eye and changes shape to allow you to see close objects. A cataract acts like a frosted glass coating that scatters light, causing blurring and lack of clarity.


What causes it?

Many studies are being carried out on cataracts, though no one knows exactly what causes them. Factors that may be linked to causing cataracts include:

  • Excessive exposure to sunlight
  • Smoking
  • Taking steroids for long periods of time
  • Poor diet
  • Injury
  • Exposure to toxic materials and radiation

Cataracts can form at any age; there are cases where babies are born with them and they are known as congenital cataracts. In younger people they can result from conditions such as diabetes and certain medications but most occur with age and many people over 60 have them.


What are the symptoms?

Cataracts are painless and usually cause a gradual worsening of sight. The main symptoms are:

Blurring
Your vision may become misty or blurry so that you cannot see details at a distance, or your glasses seem scratched and dirty.
Dazzled by lights
You may find that you have poor vision in bright light, suffer from glare, and that bright lights such as car headlights are more blinding than usual.
Double vision
You may start to notice double vision for either close or distance objects.
Changes in colour vision
You may notice that colours appear faded or washed out.

Some of these symptoms may be signs of other eye diseases. Your Optometrist will be able to use specialist equipment to monitor any changes in the lens that may lead to cataracts several years before any symptoms appear.


How is it treated?

Once vision is affected, the majority of cataracts can be treated. This is usually a short operation under local anaesthetic to remove the old, cloudy lens; replacing it with a clear plastic implant (an intra-ocular lens).

If eligible for surgery, you will have a pre-operative assessment. The operation takes around 20 minutes and is carried out through a tiny cut in the eye that usually doesn't need stitches. You will have to use drops and wear a pad to protect the eye after surgery. Most people go home the same day as the operation.

If you drive you must be able to reach the visual standards required; if you have a cataract this may need to be removed so that you can legally drive.

No prevention methods are proven, although 100% ultraviolet protection sunglasses are recommended.


What can I excpect to happen?

Once the cataracts starts to interfere with everyday tasks such as driving and looking after yourself, you will be offered a referral to an Ophthalmologist to see if surgery is an option. Cataract surgery is very successful; less than two percent of patients have serious complications.

Vision is usually instantly improved, though healing may take several months. If you wear glasses you are more likely to need a new prescription, especially for reading as the intra-ocular lens is normally only set for distance vision.


If you have any queries please feel free to contact us.