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Cataracts are a clouding of the normally clear lens inside the eye just behind the pupil, making it difficult for light rays to pass.

Vision becomes blurred for both near and distance objects. Sensitivity to glare in bright sunlight and distortion or ghosting of images may also occur as a result of cataracts.

A diagram of cataracts

Causes of cataracts

Age is the most common cause of cataracts, but they can also occur in babies and children. They may develop as a result of injury or eye disease and can also be associated with medical conditions such as diabetes. Both smoking and exposure to sunlight increase the risk of cataracts.

Cataracts are not a growth or film over the eye and are not caused as a result of overusing the eye, or eye strain.

Cataract treatment

In the early stages of a cataract, glasses or contact lenses can help correct minor visual problems but there are no non-surgical cataract treatments, such as eye drops, exercise or glasses, to make the cataract disappear once it has formed. Eventually the condition may worsen to the point where vision is seriously impaired. If this happens, the most effective treatment is to surgically remove the affected lens and replace it with an artificial lens. Cataract surgery is safe, effective and painless.

Cataract surgery

Most cataract surgery is performed during day surgery under local anaesthesia. There are many cataract surgery techniques, with phacoemulsification surgery being the most common – this is an advanced technique that allows the cataract to be removed through a very small, secure opening of only 3mm in length, with implantation of an intra-ocular lens chosen specifically to match your eye.

Your eye may be covered or protected for one night, until your surgeon reviews this the following day. You will be able to function normally after a short rest following surgery but you should avoid strenuous activities for some weeks.