What are cataracts?

Written by: Top Doctors®
Published: | Updated: 12/12/2023
Edited by: Alex Rolandi

Cataracts are when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy instead of transparent, thus causing vision to become blurry and unclear. Cataracts are common in people over the age of 60, but can develop at any age and are sometimes found in newborn babies. If you or somebody you know is over 60 years old and has blurry vision, the chances are very high that this is due to cataracts.

Cataract symptoms

Cataract symptoms generally appear gradually over time, as the cataracts themselves can develop slowly. For this reason, people may not even realise they have cataracts until they have trouble seeing, with light blocked out of their vision. Afterwards, other cataract symptoms include:

  • Cloudy, blurry, or unclear vision
  • Shortsightedness
  • Changes in colour perception
  • Trouble driving at night
  • Double vision
  • Glasses or contact lenses not working as usual


What causes cataracts?

Cataracts develop when protein collects in the lens of the eye thus causing it to turn cloudy. The cause of cataracts depends on which type of cataract the patient has.

  • Age-related cataractscome with age and form as the patient gets older
  • Congenital cataracts – present from birth or early childhood, congenital cataracts may be caused by illness, infection or poor development in the womb.
  • Traumatic cataracts – form after an eye injury
  • Secondary cataracts – are the result of another medical condition such as diabetes. They also may develop as a result of exposure to toxic substances, ultraviolet light, and even some medicines


Other common cataract risk factors include pollution, smoking, and heavy drinking. In order to diagnose cataracts, it will be necessary to undergo an eye test in order to test vision.


What does cataract treatment involve?

In some cases, it may be possible for sight to be corrected using contact lenses or glasses. However, if this cannot be so, and cataracts are affecting daily life, cataract surgery will most likely be suggested.

Patients who undergo cataract surgery are able to go home on the same day. Cataract surgery involves removing the damaged lens and replacing it with an artificial one. The success rate of surgery as a form of cataract treatment is very high. An estimated 95% of people who have undergone cataract surgery have reported an improvement in vision.

If you are having trouble seeing and think you may have cataracts, get in touch with a GP or specialist. 


By Topdoctors

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