The lens inside the eye works in a similar way to a camera lens, helping the eye to focus and see clearly, so we can see objects whether they’re close up or far away.
The lens is mostly made of protein and water. The protein is arranged in a specific way to keep the lens clear and allow light to pass through it. However, as we age, sometimes the protein can start to clump together and cause a small area of the lens to become cloudy. This is known as a cataract and, over time, it may grow larger and obscure more of the lens, making it harder to see.
Age-related cataracts can occur because of injury, historic eye surgery, conditions such as diabetes or the long-term use of steroids or steroid-based medications. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also increase the likelihood that cataracts will develop.
Generally, cataracts develop slowly, and you may not even notice that you have them at first. Usually (but not always), cataracts develop in both eyes – although they might not develop at the same time or the same speed.
When cataracts do become noticeable, you may be able to manage your symptoms by using stronger lighting and/or glasses. However, as cataracts progress, you’re likely to experience blurry or cloudy vision, added difficulty seeing at night, decreased colour clarity, sensitivity to bright lights, glare and seeing halos around lights. You may also find your glasses or contact lens prescriptions changing more frequently.
Cataracts may also affect your ability to drive. You don’t need to tell the DVLA unless you no longer meet the visual standards for driving, or have an increased sensitivity to glare because of the cataracts.
If you think you’ve got cataracts, it’s a good idea to visit your optician. They’ll perform a thorough eye test and confirm whether your symptoms are due to cataracts. Surgery is the only reliable treatment for cataracts, but don’t worry, it’s a simple procedure and only takes around 20 minutes.
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