Cataracts

When the lens of your eye becomes cloudy, you have a cataract, which prevents you from seeing clearly. It is a symptom of getting older and can only be treated by surgery.

Symptoms

The clouding of the natural lens of the eye affects us all as we age. Some of us develop this condition earlier than others but unfortunately with all of us now living longer, this has become one of life’s inevitabilities.

The word “cataract” comes from the Greek word “Cataracti” which means waterfall. The lens can take on this appearance when the condition is quite advanced.

The lens of each eye needs to be clear in order for your eyes to work properly, so cloudy lenses adversely affect your vision. In a normal eye, the clear lens allows light to reach the retina at the back of the eye, which then communicates with the brain via the optic nerve – this is how we see. However, with a cataract, less light can reach the retina, so your vision is affected.

How do I know I have cataracts?

A cataract can be present for a while before you notice you have one.

One of the first things that patients notice is reduction in vision, particularly at night. This then becomes worse as the cataract progresses and eventually reaches a point where patients’ quality of life becomes affected for example, difficulty driving or reading.

Causes

Causes

As well as getting older, there are other factors that contribute to the likelihood of developing cataracts. These include exposure to sunlight, diabetes, smoking, previous eye conditions and family history.

Treatment

Once you have a cataract, it will continue to develop and worsen. The only way to restore your vision is by having it removed by surgery. Fortunately this treatment is one of the most common surgical procedures in the world today and carries a very low risk.

During surgery, the cloudy lens is removed using a very small ultrasound probe, and a new, clear, artificial lens is inserted. Find out more about cataract surgery.