Cataracts are cloudy areas that form in the lens of the eye. The lens is normally clear. Poor vision results because the cloudiness interferes with light entering the eye. The opacities in the lens scatter the light, causing hazy vision, in the same way that a dirty window scatters light.
Most cataracts are a result of ageing and long-term exposure to ultraviolet light. Some are caused by injury and certain diseases and in rare cases by exposure to toxic materials and radiation. Occasionally cataracts are present at birth, due to the baby’s mother having had rubella during the pregnancy, or due to genetic defects.
If untreated, cataracts can cause blindness. Blindness can be prevented by detecting the cataracts early and, if necessary, by having them removed surgically. Your optometrist will refer you to an eye specialist if they consider that you need medical treatment for your cataracts.
Most patients have an intra-ocular lens (IOL) inserted at the time of surgery, with excellent results. This is a plastic lens which replaces your own cloudy lens. Patients may also need to wear spectacles or contact lenses.