When the normally clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy, this is known as a cataract. Having a cataract is like looking through a dirty window and is a leading cause of vision impairment. While most cataracts are found in people aged over 50, cataracts can also occur at younger ages.
Commonly asked questions
What causes cataracts?
Most cataracts are a normal change due to advancing age but they can also be caused by eye injuries, toxic chemicals or diseases like diabetes.
Smoking and exposure to ultraviolet light are also risk factors that contribute to the development of cataracts.
How will I know if I have cataracts?
In their early stages, cataracts may develop in one eye before the other, starting out small and having little effect on your vision. Signs of advancing cataracts include blurred vision, sensitivity to light especially at night, and a feeling of looking through a film.
As part of your eye examination, your optometrist will check the health of your eyes. This includes using a special microscope to look at the lens inside your eye for any sign of cataract formation. Using these results and information from other tests, optometrists are able to tell if you have cataracts.
Can cataracts be treated?
Many people with small cataracts that are not advancing can be helped with new prescription glasses and a regular eye examination. When cataracts begin to affect your vision, interfering with your ability to work or drive, your optometrist will talk to you about the benefits of referring you to an ophthalmologist, or eye surgeon, to consider surgery to remove the cataracts. Many people consider poor vision to be an inevitable fact of aging, but cataract surgery is a simple, relatively painless procedure.
How will I know when I need to have cataracts removed?
Because cataracts often progress slowly, you may not know you have a cataract or whether your cataract is making your vision worse. The best way to monitor your cataract is with a regular eye examination with your optometrist who will help you maximise your vision, make sure your vision is safe for driving and talk to you about the right time for surgery to have the cataract removed.