If your doctor has told you that you have a cataract, don’t be alarmed. Over half of those over 65 have some cataract development and most cases can be treated successfully with surgery. A cataract is a clouding of part of your eye called the lens. Your vision becomes blurred or dim because light cannot pass through the clouded lens to the back of the eye.

Image simulating a person's vision with cataracts


The lens

The lens is a transparent body behind the iris, the coloured part of the eye. The lens bends light rays so that they give a clear image to the back of the eye – the retina. As the lens is elastic, it will change shape for distant objects.

What causes a cataract?

Cataracts can form at any age, but most often develop as people get older. In younger people they can result from an injury, certain drugs, long-standing inflammation or illnesses such as diabetes.

Some symptoms

  • Seeing double – The cloudiness in the lens may occur in more than one place, so that the light rays which reach the retina are split, causing a double image.
  • Poor vision in bright light – You may find that bright light or very sunny days make it more difficult to see.
  • Change of colour vision – As the cataract develops, its centre becomes more and more yellow, giving everything you see a yellowish tinge.


What is the treatment?

The most effective treatment for cataracts is a small operation to remove the cloudy lens. This cannot be performed by laser, although laser treatment is sometimes needed afterwards. Diets or drugs have not been shown to slow or stop the development of cataracts.

When the cloudy lens has been surgically removed it is usually replaced by a plastic lens so that the eye can focus properly. Occasionally a doctor will decide that someone’s eye is not suitable for a lens transplant. In these cases contact lenses or special glasses will be prescribed instead.

When should I have the operation?

Usually, you can decide if and at what stage to have the operation. The operation can be carried out at any stage of the cataract’s development. But obviously, you need to bear in mind that there may be a waiting list for this.

For most people, it is possible to have the operation and go home on the same day, as long as you have someone to look after you at home. Sometimes surgery will mean a short stay in hospital.

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Dr David Keegan discusses the eye condition Cataracts

Dr David Keegan discusses the eye condition Cataracts explaining what are the causes, symptoms and treatments.


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