Cataracts

Cataracts

Cataracts are cloudy patches in the lens of the eye. As time goes on they get bigger and the only way to restore vision is to remove the cataract.

Cataract is the most cited cause of blindness in the world and yet it is easy to treat. A cataract removal is the most common operation carried out in Britain today.

Symptoms

  • Vision is cloud or misty
  • You may see dots or spots
  • Dazzling glare from bright light
  • Colours look faded or yellowy
  • You may have double vision

What causes a cataract?

As we age the lens inside our eye starts to change until it goes from being clear to becoming cloudy. A lens that has aged in this way is said to have a cataract.

A cataract is not a film that grows over the eye but rather the lens itself that has become misty. The only way to treat the cataract is to surgically remove the misty lens and replace it with an artificial one.

A cataract usually starts with a small cloudy spot - rather like looking through glasses with a smear of grease on the lens. Gradually the cataract gets worse until everything looks misty and washed out. Colours become less clear, the edges of objects harder to see and more light is required in order to read. Eventually it may even become hard to recognise faces.

Cataracts are a normal part of ageing but people with diabetes or those on steroids are at risk of developing early cataract.

How are cataracts treated?

Cataracts are treated with a routine operation carried out by an ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) usually as a day case, under a local anaesthetic.

Typically, a small insertion is made into the eye, the misty lens broken up using ultrasound and then removed through the hole and replaced with a new artificial lens.

Following surgery medication may be given to reduce the pressure in the eye, along with eye-drops to prevent infection and inflammation.

Recovery is usually rapid although patients may need reading glasses.

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