What is a cataract?

A cataract develops when the natural lens of the eye (the crystalline lens) starts to cloud up and harden. This happens over a period of time, although occasionally it can happen quickly.

Cataracts are not a growth - they are a normal part of the ageing process. In fact, most people with cataracts are healthy and have no other eye problems.

They mainly occur in people who are over the age of 60, but it’s not unknown for them to occur in younger people. Some people are even born with congenital cataracts. Most at risk are people who have a family history of cataracts. However, cataracts have also been linked to other diseases such as diabetes, prolonged exposure to sunlight, smoking and alcohol use.

Symptoms of cataracts

As a cataract progresses, the following may occur:

  • A decline in far vision, near vision or both
  • Cloudy vision
  • Deterioration in night vision
  • A sensitivity to bright light and glare
  • A tendency to becoming more short sighted

If you notice any of these symptoms, you’ll need to visit your optometrist.

Detecting cataracts

If your optometrist advises that you have a cataract, you may be referred to an ophthalmologist. If cataracts are discovered, your surgeon will discuss the options, explain surgery and answer all of your questions.

Treating cataracts

Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in the world. It’s an intricate form of microsurgery that’s usually performed in a day surgery or hospital. It involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with a new lens called an intraocular lens.

There are many everyday advantages following successful cataract surgery. For example, many people who have cataract surgery find they don’t need glasses to read, or for distance vision. Most patients find that they can reduce their dependency on glasses.

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