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A cataract is a cloudiness that develops in the normally clear lens in the eye. The effects of cataracts can best be explained as similar to looking through a misty window. Over time a cataract will become denser and denser until it occludes vision altogether.

There are several causes of cataracts, the most common being associated with ageing (Age Related Cataracts). Although cataracts don’t usually start to affect most Australians until they are in their 60’s or 70’s, an earlier onset of cataracts can be attributed to smoking, excessive exposure to sunlight, diabetes, and the long term use of some medications (Secondary Cataracts). Cataracts may also develop after an eye injury (Traumatic Cataracts) and in rare cases babies are born with cataracts or develop them in early childhood (Congenital Cataracts).

As cataracts usually develop slowly over a long period of time, most people only become aware they have them following a routine visit to the optometrist or ophthalmologist. Someone with cataracts may need to have several prescription updates over a shorter than normal period of time.

Common symptoms of cataracts are:

  • Cloudy or blurred vision at any viewing distance
  • Glare sensitivity
  • Haloes around lights at night time
  • Colours looked washed-out

Cataracts are treated by way of a surgical procedure performed by an ophthalmologist in a hospital or day surgery. Sophisticated equipment assists the ophthalmologist to perform suture-less surgery that removes the cataract portion of the lens, which is then replaced with an artificial prosthetic lens.

Prior to the surgery, measurements are taken and calculations are made to ascertain the type of prosthesis that will be used to deliver as close as possible to clear distance vision without the need for glasses. Some pre existing conditions such as astigmatism may not be fully corrected during the surgery and glasses may still need to be prescribed. In most cases reading glasses will be needed after cataract surgery, and in many cases multifocal spectacles are still the ideal option for practicality.

My Health 1st Optometry Australia Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists College of Optometrists in Vision Development Orthokeratology Society of Oceania Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency Good Vision for Life