SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Cataracts are a common cause of low vision in the elderly.
- Cataract surgery is safe and effective.
- Sun protection and quitting smoking may help to prevent or delay cataracts.
On this page
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. Cataracts are treated by removing the cloudy lens of the eye with surgery. Sun protection and quitting smoking may help prevent cataracts. Cataracts are common in older people.
Due to its association with ageing, eventually everyone will develop a cataract if they live long enough. By the age of 70, almost all of us will have some degree of cataract formation.
Symptoms of cataracts
Symptoms of a cataract can include:
- blurred vision
- sensitivity to light (glare)
- reduced night vision
- fading or ‘yellowing’ of colours.
Diagnosis of cataracts
Cataracts can be diagnosed with an eye examination. If you notice any changes in your vision, you should have your vision checked by a GP (doctor), optometrist or eye specialist.
Causes of cataracts
Most cataracts develop as part of the ageing process. Long term and unprotected exposure to UV sunlight, smoking, diabetes and long term corticosteroid use are among increased risk factors for developing cataract.
Treatment for cataracts
Your ophthalmologist will advise if your cataract should be removed. A cataract may only be removed by surgery, usually performed under a local anaesthetic.. Approximately 250,000 cataract operations are performed in Australia each year.
A small incision is made and the cataract-affected lens is removed. It is replaced with a small artificial intraocular lens. Surgery usually requires no stitches and visual recovery typically occurs within days. Once a cataract is removed, it cannot redevelop.
Prevention of cataracts
Wearing sunglasses to protect from prolonged direct exposure to UV sunlight, not smoking and good diabetes control if you suffer from diabetes may assist to prevent the early development of cataract.