A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside your eye.
Developing cataracts will cause your sight to become cloudy and misty. Cataracts are treated by surgery, during which the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens.
We’ve put together a guide to the condition and what to expect during surgery. Our Understanding Cataracts guide is accredited by the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.
You can also download our full guide on cataracts as a Word document
Do I have cataracts?
Cataracts normally develop very slowly. At first, the changes they make to your sight may be difficult to notice, but as they get worse you’ll start to notice symptoms such as:
- You feel like your glasses are dirty and need cleaning, even when they don’t.
- Your sight is misty and cloudy.
- You’re more sensitive to light – bright sunlight or car headlamps may glare more.
- Everything looks a little more washed out than it should be.
Eventually, almost all people with cataracts will find that their sight has turned misty or cloudy, and things have become difficult to see all of the time. Cataracts sometimes develop so slowly that you might not notice the changes in your vision, but when you have your regular eye test, your optometrist (also known as an optician) may detect them.
Why have I developed cataracts?
Developing cataracts is a normal part of growing older. Most people start to develop cataracts after the age of 65, but some people in their forties and fifties can also develop cataracts.
Certain things make it more likely that you will develop cataracts:
- Diabetes – people who have diabetes often develop cataracts earlier.
- Trauma – having an eye injury can cause the injured eye to develop a cataract.
- Medications – some prescription drugs can cause cataracts, for example steroids.
- Eye surgery – surgery for a retinal problem will likely lead to cataracts in the affected eye at some point in the future.
- Eye conditions – other eye conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma or uveitis, may also cause cataracts.
- Having high myopia (being very short sighted) may cause cataracts.
- People who have learning disabilities are more likely to develop cataracts.
Despite the different causes, most cataracts are dealt with using the same type of surgery. Some children have cataracts (known as childhood or congenital cataracts) which are dealt with in a different way.
What can be done about cataracts?
Cataracts can be removed by surgery. Cataract surgery removes your cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial lens. This lens is known as an intra ocular lens – often shortened to IOL. The artificial lens is made of plastic or silicone, and will not need to be changed for the rest of your life.
There isn’t any medicine or drops that can remove cataracts – surgery is the only way to treat them. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to stop cataracts from developing or getting worse.
Normally, if you have cataracts in both eyes, they will be removed separately. You’ll have one eye operated on and then once this eye is healed, you’ll have the cataract in your other eye removed.
What to expect during cataract surgery
For more information on what to expect during cataract surgery, watch our video which features Roy talking about his cataract surgery.
More information on cataract surgery
Knowing RNIB is there is so reassuring, like a comfort blanket
NHS Choices has information and advice on age-related cataracts and cataract surgery.