Cataract occurs when the crystaline lens inside your eye becomes cloudy or misty. This is a gradual process that happens as we get older, it is not painful.
The only treatment for cataracts is surgery, if the cataract gets to the stage where it affects your sight the optometrist will refer you to hospital to have this done. The surgery is carried out under a local anaesthetic and is very safe. Once you have had the cataract removed, it will not grow back.
The main cause is age. Smoking, poor diet and exposure to sunlight have all been linked to cataracts.
Younger people can develop cataracts if they have an injury to the eye. Some medical conditions including diabetes or taking some sorts of medication may also cause cataracts.
Many people with a cataract notice that they need the a new prescription for their glasses. You may notice that your vision is less clear and distinct. Car headlights and streetlights can become dazzling. You may experience difficulties moving from shade to sunlit areas. Colours may look different too and become faded.
The best advice to try to prevent cataracts, or to stop them getting worse, is to stop smoking and to wear good quality sunglasses with full UV protection.
If your cataract is affecting your day-to-day life, and your optometrist cannot improve this enough by changing your glasses, they will refer you for surgery. This involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with a clear plastic one.
You will have an initial appointment where the ophthalmologist will assess your eyes.The ophthalmologist may also be able to correct your short- or long-sightedness so that you do not need to wear your glasses as much after the operation as you did before.
Most cataract operations are done using a local anaesthetic, it takes around 20 minutes.
You will not normally need stitches, but your eye will be covered to protect it from knocks for a few days after the operation. You will be allowed to go home the same day but must not drive.
Your eyesight will settle down in a few weeks. You will probably find that your glasses will need changing after the operation, so you will need to see your optometrist again for an eye examination a few weeks after the surgery.
You may find that it takes a few weeks to adapt to your vision with new glasses after cataract surgery. This is normal, and is due to your brain adapting to a different prescription.