What are cataracts?

Cataracts are cloudy (opaque) areas that develop in the lens of an eye. The lens should normally be clear. But, with cataracts, the affected lens becomes like frosted glass. In Australia about 1 in 3 people over the age of 65 has a cataract. Men and women are equally affected. Often both eyes are affected, but one eye may be worse than the other.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

At first you may notice your vision becoming a bit blurred. With time, you may notice some of the following:

• Having spots in your vision

• Seeing halos around bright lights – for example, street lights

• Not being able to see as well in brightly lit rooms or in sunshine

• Becoming easily dazzled by bright lights such as the headlights of an oncoming car

• Your colour vision may become washed out or faded

• Over the years your vision may gradually become worse and is unable to be corrected by glasses

Depending on the severity of the cataract, the effect on your sight can range from vision being slightly blurred to complete blindness in the affected eye.

Do I need treatment for cataracts?

An early cataract may not cause any noticeable problem with your vision. The rate of decline in vision varies considerably from person to person. It is now common for people to have their cataract treated at an early stage when the cataract is affecting ability to function normally. For example, if you are having problems reading the paper, watching TV, driving, cooking.

How are cataracts treatment?

There are no medicines, eye drops or lasers that can treat cataracts. The only way of treating cataracts is with an operation. This is a very common operation. Around 150000 cataract operations are performed each year in Australia. The operation involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial plastic lens (an intraocular implant). It is a routine operation that usually takes 20-30 minutes. It is often done as a day case. Treatment is 99% successful.