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Mark Benson, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon
What is a cataract?
Cataract is a cloudiness in the lens of the eye. It makes the vision hazy, and it often causes glare and problems with reading. Reading text on the TV can be particularly difficult. The symptoms gradually become worse. Usually both eyes are affected although one may be worse than the other. Sometimes people only get cataract in one eye.
Can cataract cause blindness?
In the UK it is very rare for somebody to go blind with cataract. This is because we have good access to healthcare. In poorer countries where access to healthcare is difficult, cataract is a common cause of blindness. This is because once cataract starts it becomes progressively worse, and if not treated then it will eventually block the eyesight almost completely.
How do you treat cataract?
Cataract may be treated with a simple operation. This usually takes about 15 minutes for one eye. The operation is done as day surgery with local anaesthetic. The operation involves removing the lens that has gone cloudy and replacing it with an artificial lens, called an implant. In most cases the vision is good within one day of the surgery. Many people use glasses for their reading vision after cataract surgery but one can choose to have a multifocal implant which gives reading vision as well as good distance vision.
Can cataract come back after it has been treated?
No. Once you have had cataract surgery, the cataract can never come back. Some people develop some scarring behind the implant a year or two after the surgery and this can cause some haziness of the vision. If that occurs, then it can be easily treated with some very quick and safe laser treatment. That only needs to be done once.
What causes cataract?
Most Cataracts are caused by advancing age. Different people have a different genetic tendency for this but provided we live long enough we all get cataract eventually. Some people show early cataract for genetic reasons. Cataract can also be caused by other diseases, either in the eye or in other parts of the body. Some drugs, such as steroids, can cause cataract.
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