A cataract is an eye condition where the lens part of the eye becomes clouded.
If you have cataracts, vision is likely to become blurred or dim because light cannot pass through the clouded lens to the back of the eye.
Cataracts are very common in people over the age of 60. Treatment is available for the majority of cataract conditions.
What are the symptoms?
There are a number of symptoms which might mean someone has developed cataracts:
- Blurred vision – especially around the edges. If you wear glasses, it may seem like the lenses are dirty or scratched.
- Seeing double – cloudiness in the lens may occur in more than one place which means light reaching the retina is split causing a double image.
- Poor vision in bright light – artificial bright light or when it is very sunny can make it more difficult to see.
- Colour vision changes – the centre of the cataract becomes more yellow as it develops so there may be a yellow tint.
What are the causes?
Scientists are not certain about the cause of cataracts, and there may be several reasons. Research has linked smoking, exposure to strong sunlight and a diet lacking the right nutrients to the development of cataracts.
Cataracts can form at any age but most develop as people get older. They can also result from an injury, certain drugs, long-term inflammation or from diabetes.
Cataracts which are present from birth are known as congenital cataracts.
What should I do?
If you have any of these symptoms please see your optician or optometrist. These symptoms might be a sign of another eye condition and it is important to have an eye test to ensure you have the correct diagnosis.
Can it be treated?
Cataracts can be treated with a small operation which will remove the cloudy lens. The lens will usually be replaced with a plastic lens so that the eye can focus properly. Occasionally a lens implant is not suitable so contact lenses or special glasses will be prescribed.
Is there a cure?
After an operation sight should improve within a few days, although it is likely that it will take several months for the eye to completely heal.
How will I live with it?
Early cataracts can increase short sightedness; this can be helped by altering a glasses prescription. Tinted lenses and shielding eyes from the sun can also help. As cataracts develop, your optician is likely to advise having a simple operation. Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures and in most cases can be carried out in a day. You can discuss the procedure with an eye specialist.
This document was created in partnership with RNIB and Action for the Blind.
Devon in Sight is a local charity providing practical help and advice to people affected by sight loss, to maximise independence, wellbeing and choice.
You can call the RNIB Helpline on 0303 123 9999 and coordinators will provide you with impartial support and advice on everything to do with visual impairment.
RNIB have information on eye conditions from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
Moorfields Eye Hospital is one of the world’s largest centre for eye care and research.
NHS Direct is the website to the NHS Direct health advice service, with information and advice about cataracts.
NHS Choices has extensive information and recent news about eye health with videos about specific eye conditions.
Devon in Sight is not a medical organisation, therefore we can only provide general information that is not intended to be a substitute for a proper medical assessment. The information is also not intended to be used for individual cases. If you have a specific question about your eye condition, we recommend that you consult an eye care professional.
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