BLOG: What is a cataract?

You may have been told by your optician that you have cataracts and referred to us for treatment. Or you may suspect you have cataracts, wondering what they are and what you need to do next.  

Cataracts are pretty common in adults, about 30% of adults aged 65+ will have a cataract that is affecting their vision and requires treatment .

So, you may be wondering exactly what a cataract is and why you’ve got one (or two). Here’s everything you need to know… 

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in your eye. As you age, proteins in your natural lens begin to break down and the lens becomes clouded.  

The lens inside the eye works much like a camera lens, focusing light onto the retina for clear vision. It also adjusts the eye’s focus, letting us see things clearly both up close and far away. 

The lens is mostly made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens clear and lets light pass through it. 

But as we age, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud a small area of the lens. Over time, it may grow larger and cloud more of the lens, making it harder to see. 

How do they develop?

Generally, cataracts develop slowly, and you may not even notice that you have them at first. Cataracts also usually appear in both eyes – although they might not develop at the same time, same rate, or even in both eyes at all. 

What are the symptoms?

The majority of people with cataracts are unaware that they have them until their optician tells them they do. In these cases, it’s not uncommon for people to think that their vision is getting worse purely as a result of getting older. 

You may experience one or more of the following cataracts symptoms: 

  • A decrease in vision clarity that can’t be corrected with glasses 
  • Colours appear faded or washed out, sometimes with a yellow haze 
  • Sensitivity to light, glare, and seeing halos around lights 
  • Frequent changes to glasses or contact lens prescriptions 

Cataracts may also affect your ability to drive. You’ll need to tell the DVLA if you’ve had your eyes tested and no longer meet the visual standards for driving 

You may also have an increased sensitivity to glare from lights when driving because of the cataracts. 

What should I do if I think I have cataracts?

If you think you’ve got cataracts, you should see your optician who will perform a thorough eye test and confirm whether the symptoms you’re experiencing are indeed cataracts.  

Your optician can then refer you to an eye hospital for surgery – there are many to choose from, such as your local NHS hospital or a provider, like SpaMedica, who also treats NHS patients. 

Surgery is the only reliable cataract treatment, and, for most individuals this is a straightforward operation, which lasts about 10 minutes, without the need for any needles or injections, as the local anaesthetic is administered using eye drops 

Cataract surgery is the most common operation performed today in the UK, with about 450,000 surgeries performed each year. 

As the UK’s largest provider of NHS cataract surgery, we’re proud to be achieving some of the best outcomes for our patients in the UK, so when you visit a SpaMedica eye hospital, you can be reassured that you’ll receive excellent service and a very warm welcome. 

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