What are cataracts?
Cataracts are formed when the clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy or misty. This is a gradual process that usually happens as we get older. It does not hurt. The early stages of a cataract do not necessarily affect your sight, but if your sight becomes very impaired you may be referred for surgery to replace the cataract with a clear artificial lens. This surgery is carried out under a local anesthetic and has a very high success rate.
Who is affected by cataracts?
Cataracts mainly develop in those aged 65 or older. Younger people can develop cataracts following an injury to the eye. Some medical conditions such as diabetes, or taking some sorts of medication such as steroids, may also cause cataracts. Smokers are also more likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers and there may also be a link between UV rays (sunshine) and cataracts. A very small number of babies are born with a cataract.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
If you have cataracts you may notice that your vision is less clear and distinct. Car headlights and streetlights can become dazzling, and you may experience difficulty moving from shade to sunlit areas. Colours may look faded or yellowed.
Many people with a cataract notice that they need to change the prescription for their glasses more often than they used to. If you are long-sighted, you may even notice that you need your glasses less than you did before you had the cataract!
How do you treat cataracts?
Treating cataracts often simply means that your prescription for glasses needs changing. If the cataract is still affecting your day-to-day life, and your optometrist cannot improve this enough by changing your glasses, you can ask them to refer you to an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) for surgery. This involves removing the cloudy lens (the cataract) and replacing it with a clear plastic one. If you have cataracts in both eyes, surgery will normally be carried out on one eye at a time.
Will my cataracts come back?
After some months or years, some people notice that their vision becomes cloudy or misty again in the eye where the cataract has been removed. This is not the cataract returning, but is due to the sac which contains the replacement lens clouding up. This cloudiness can be removed by painless laser treatment in a matter of minutes. Contact your optometrist if you are worried that this is happening to you.