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CATARACT
CATARACT


What is a cataract?

If your doctor has told you that you have a cataract, don't be alarmed. Over half of those over 65 have some cataract development and most cases can be treated successfully with surgery.  Despite what you may have heard, a cataract is not a skin that grows over your eye. A cataract is a clouding of part of your eye called the lens. Your vision becomes blurred or dim because light cannot pass through the clouded lens to the back of the eye.

The lens

The lens is a transparent body behind the iris, the coloured part of the eye. The lens bends light rays so that they give a clear image to the back of the eye - the retina. As the lens is elastic, it will change shape, getting fatter for close objects and thinner for distant objects.

What causes a cataract?

Cataracts can form at any age, but most often develop as people get older. In younger people they can result from an injury, certain drugs, long-standing inflammation or illnesses such as diabetes.

Some symptoms

"I'm not seeing as well as I used to"

You may notice that some things seem blurred round the edges, or that your glasses seem dirty or scratched.

Seeing double

The cloudiness in the lens may occur in more than one place, so that the light rays, which reach the retina, are split, causing a double image.

Poor vision in bright light

You may find that bright light or very sunny days make it more difficult to see.


Change of colour vision

As the cataract develops its centre becomes more and more yellow, giving everything you see a yellowish tinge.


What can be done to help?

The most effective treatment for cataracts is a small operation to remove the cloudy lens. This cannot be performed by laser, although laser treatment is sometimes needed afterwards.

In the past, eye specialists often waited until the cataract became "ripe" before suggesting you had it removed. Nowadays, with modern surgery the operation can be carried out at any stage of the cataract's development. If visual impairment interferes with your ability to read, to work, or to do the things you enjoy then you will probably want to consider surgery.

For most people, it is possible to have your operation and go home on the same day, as long as you have someone to look after you at home. Sometimes surgery will mean a short stay in hospital.

Current Ophthalmological opinion is that over-exposure to UV light can cause an earlier onset of Cataracts. In bright sunlight always wear sunglasses which absorb UV light. 

This information has been reproduced with the kind permission of the RNIB and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists.