Cataracts are an age-related eye condition that causes a decrease in vision. They are one of the most common things your optometrist might mention to you if you are over the age of 60 years old but it can be confusing. Here, we answer some common questions to do with cataracts.

Q: What is a cataract?

A: The crystalline lens, which sits behind the iris (or the coloured part of the eye) is usually clear when we are born. As we get older, this lens starts becoming more cloudy and opaque, which is known as a cataract.

Q: When will I get them?

A: Your optometrist will tend to notice these age-related changes in your eyes from around 50-60 years old, depending on the individual. Some medical conditions and trauma can cause them to come on faster. You can also be born with cataracts, these are called ‘congenital cataracts’.

Q: How do I stop cataracts?

A: You generally can’t stop cataracts forming, as they form as part of aging. That being said, eating a healthy diet full of anti-oxidants and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can slow how quickly they develop. Trauma, steroid use, smoking, radiation exposure and diabetes are all more likely to cause cataracts to develop faster and should be limited where possible.

Q: Will I get them in both eyes?

A: Cataracts form in both eyes, however, they may not develop at the same time.

Q: What will I notice when I get cataracts?

A: When they first develop, you may not notice any changes to your vision. As they become more advanced, some common things people notice: a drop in their vision, colours become more ‘dull’, more sensitive to glare.

Q: What is the treatment for cataracts?

A: Generally, a decision will be made between you and your optometrist about making a referral when your cataracts are starting to impact your everyday life. The referral will be made to an ophthalmologist. If you ophthalmologist decides that treatment is recommended, they will perform cataract surgery. This generally involves removing your lens and putting in a clear, plastic lens. The surgery is performed commonly and typically involves day surgery. If you require more information about cataract surgery, we recommend speaking to an ophthalmologist directly.

Q: How often should I get them checked?

A: This will depend on if you’re noticing any symptoms and what your optometrist recommends. Generally, we recommend over the age of 60, that you have your eyes checked annually. Your optometrist may recommend seeing you every 6 months if they are concerned about your cataracts.