All about…cataracts

What are they?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye which leads to a decrease in vision. Cataracts often develop slowly and can affect one or both eyes. Over time these patches usually become bigger causing blurry or double vision, halos around light, trouble with bright lights, and trouble seeing at night. Cataracts usually appear in both eyes. They may not necessarily develop at the same time or be the same in each eye. They’re more common in older adults and can affect your ability to carry out daily activities such as driving.

When to seek medical advice

You should see an optician if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Your eyesight is blurred or misty
  • You find lights too bright or glaring
  • You find it harder to see in low light
  • Colours look faded

If you wear glasses, you may feel your lenses are dirty and need cleaning, even when they do not.

Cataracts are not painful and do not make your eyes red or irritated, but they can be painful if they’re in an advanced stage or if you’ve got another eye condition.

Testing for and treatment of cataracts

Your optician will do a series of eye tests, including a visual exam, which measures how well you see at various distances. If your optician thinks you have cataracts, you may be referred to an eye specialist for more tests and treatment. If your cataracts are not too bad, stronger glasses and brighter reading lights may help for a while. Cataracts do get worse over time, however, so you’ll eventually need surgery to remove and replace the affected lens.

What causes cataracts?

It’s not entirely clear why we are more likely to develop cataracts as we get older, but some things may increase your risk of cataracts, including:

  • a family history of cataracts
  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • eye injury
  • poor diet
  • overexposing your eyes to sunlight
  • long-term use of steroids
  • drinking too much alcohol

Article written by Sight Cymru’s Esther Weller.

For more information or advice on cataracts or any other eye conditions please get in touch with the team.