A cataract is clouding of the lens. Everyone develops cataracts at some point in their life. This is the reason cataract surgery is the most common operation in the world.
Cataract surgery removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with a new clear implant.
What Causes Cataracts?
There are many types of cataracts. Most are caused by a change in the chemical makeup of the lens. Aging, certain medications (e.g. steroids), genetics, eye injuries, or certain diseases can cause cataracts.
The normal process of aging can make the lens harden and turn cloudy. These “age-related cataracts” are the most common, and they may occur as early as age 40.
When cataracts appear in children, they may be inherited or they may have been caused by an infection before birth. These are called “congenital cataracts,” and babies have them at birth.
Eye injuries, such as a hard blow, puncture, cut, intense heat, or chemical burn can damage the lens and cause “traumatic cataracts” in people of any age.
Certain diseases, such as diabetes, can cause cataracts to occur at an earlier age. These are called “secondary cataracts.”
How are cataracts diagnosed?
It is important to see your optometrist for yearly checkups. Your optometrist will recognize when you have cataracts and will refer you for surgery.
Depending on the size and location of the cataract, you may or may not know it is developing. If it is on the outer edge of the lens, you may not notice a change. As cataracts develop, you may find you have a painless blurring of your vision. Double vision may occur in one eye. Your eyes may be more sensitive to light and glare, making it hard to drive, especially at night. You may find that you have to change your eyeglass prescription more often.
As the cataract gets worse, stronger glasses don’t help any more. It may help to hold objects closer when you read and do close-up work. Your pupil may change colour and be yellowish to white.
How are cataracts treated?
When a cataract reduces your vision to the point that you can’t do the things you like to do (such as reading, driving, working on the computer), it is probably time to have the lens removed. Surgery is the only effective way to remove the cloudy lens.
Surgery can be done with ultrasound or laser - see the comparison videos on the next page: