Cataracts are an extremely common condition – the main cause of impaired vision worldwide. The majority of people aged 65 and over have some degree of visual impairment caused by this condition.
What are cataracts?
Cataracts are when the lens in the eye develops cloudy patches. Over many years these patches become bigger and cause blurry, misty vision and in severe cases, eventually blindness. Because they normally develop very slowly, the gradual deterioration in vision may be unnoticeable until it starts to interfere with daily activity or is spotted by an optician.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
There are many types of cataracts and not all cause symptoms. For most people the main complaint is deterioration in the quality of vision (e.g. blurred, misty or cloudy) but other symptoms include:
- Difficulty seeing in dim or very bright light
- Colours look faded or less clear with a yellow or brown tinge
- Double vision
- Haloes (circles of light) visible around bright lights, such as car headlights or street lights
How can they be treated?
The most effective treatment for cataracts is surgery. Conducted by an ophthalmologist, cataract surgery involves making a tiny cut in the eye to remove the cataract. The ophthalmologist will normally insert a plastic replacement lens so that you can see clearly.
The procedure can take between 15 and 45 minutes and is performed using a local anaesthetic, meaning the patient is awake but unable to feel around the eye area. Once complete, the patient is free to go home the same day. Stitches aren’t required but the eye will be covered in order to protect it.