What is it?

Cataracts are cloudy deposits that develop in the clear lens inside your eye, stopping some of the light from reaching the back of the eye, and causing blurred or misty vision.

What are the symptoms?

Cataracts develop over many years and problems may at first be unnoticeable. They often develop in both eyes, although each eye may be affected differently. You will usually have blurred, cloudy or misty vision. You may find it more difficult to see in dim or very bright light. Bright lights may be dazzling or uncomfortable to look at and colours may look faded or less clear with a yellow or brown tinge. You may see haloes (circles of light) around bright lights, such as car headlights or street lights

What causes it?

In most people, cataracts simply develop as they get older. Several other factors may also increase your risk of developing cataracts, including:

a family history of cataracts
lifelong exposure of your eyes to UV light
taking steroid medication over a long time
previous eye surgery or injury
certain health conditions, such as diabetes

What help and treatment is available?

When you have your eyes examined we will use a variety of instruments to look inside and check for cataracts.

If your cataracts are mild, stronger glasses and brighter reading lights may be helpful for some time. However, most cataracts get worse over time (often many years) so eventually you may need treatment.

The only treatment that is proven to be effective for cataracts is surgery. This will usually be recommended if your loss of vision has a significant effect on your daily activities, such as driving or reading.

If it is thought you have cataracts that are affecting your quality of life, you can be referred to an ophthalmologist, who can confirm the diagnosis and plan your treatment. If deemed appropriate, your ophthalmologist will organise cataract surgery. The cloudy lens will be replaced by a clear synthetic lens that stays in your eye for the rest of your life.

Will I need new spectacles after my cataract operation?

It may take 4-6 weeks for your eyesight to settle down following cataract surgery. Following this it is possible that your ophthalmologist may recommend a change in your spectacle prescription.