The EyeCare Corner
Est: 1974

Cataracts

What are cataracts?

Cataracts are a cloudiness that forms in the lens of the eye. The lens normally is clear. Poor vision results because the cloudiness interferes with light entering the eye.

Are cataracts a kind of growth?

No. Cataracts are due to change in the lens material.

What causes cataracts?

Most cataracts are a result of ageing and long-term exposure to ultraviolet light. Some are caused by injury and certain diseases and in rare cases by exposure to toxic material and radiation. Occasionally cataracts are present at birth, due to the baby's mother having had rubella during the pregnancy, or genetic defects.

Do cataracts get worse?

Yes. The clouded areas become larger and denser and cause the patient's sight to become worse. The time taken for this to happen varies from a few months to many years.

Do cataracts affect both eyes?

Usually cataracts affect both eyes but often develop at different rates in each eye.

How common are cataracts?

People older than 65 years often have signs of cataracts and should have their eyes examined regularly.

If untreated, cataracts can cause blindness. Blindness can be prevented by detecting the cataracts early and, if necessary, by having them removed surgically.

How well will I see if my lens is removed?

In most cases very well. Most patients have an intraocular lens (IOL) inserted at the time of surgery, with excellent results. This is a plastic lens that replaces your own cloudy lens. Patients may also need to wear spectacles or contact lenses.

What are the signs of cataracts?

Usually the development of cataracts is gradual with a painless worsening of sight. Other symptoms include blurred or hazy vision, spots before the eyes, double vision and a marked increase in sensitivity to glare.

How can I be sure I don't have cataracts?

An examination by your optometrist will reveal any changes that have occurred in the lens of the eye. Optometrists have special equipment that enables them to see changes in the lens that may lead to cataracts several years before any symptoms appear.

Can cataracts be prevented?

There is no proven method of preventing cataracts. Long term exposure to ultraviolet light is thought to induce cataracts, so a brimmed hat and approved sunglasses should be worn in sunlight.

When should I have a cataract operation?

This varies with each patient. Usually cataract surgery is performed when the patient's vision interferes with daily life. Your optometrist will assist you in making this decision.

Is cataract removal a major operation?

Cataract surgery is now a relatively minor procedure. Often it is performed under local anaesthetic. Depending on the patient, the surgery may be performed on an out-patient basis. This means that the patient attends a hospital or clinic for the surgery and is able to go home the same day. The surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor who specialises in eye surgery. Your optometrist will refer you to an ophthalmologist if necessary.

Bruce Mellick Optometry