An explanation of cataracts

A cataract is an ophthalmological condition which results in the eye's lens becoming cloudy. A person who develops a cataract usually finds that their vision in the affected eye becomes blurred or cloudy. They may also see halos when they look directly at bright lights. Here is a brief explanation of this condition.

Risk factors

There are several things that can increase a person's risk of developing cataracts. These include having diabetes and having a family history of this condition. Excessive alcohol consumption, smoking and spending too much time in sunlight without wearing sunglasses (to protect the eyes from UV rays) can all also increase a person's chances of getting cataracts.

Certain conditions are also known to be a risk factor for this eye condition.

How this condition is diagnosed

Cataracts are usually diagnosed by a person's optometrist. The diagnostic process is relatively straightforward; in most cases, the optometrist can confirm the presence of cataracts in their patient's eyes simply by examining them with a tool known as an ophthalmoscope, which allows them to look past the pupil, into the lens which lies directly behind it.

If during the examination, the optometrist discovers that their patient has a cataract, they will then refer them to an ophthalmologist for treatment.  

How this condition is treated

Cataracts cannot be treated with medication; the only way to address this problem is to carry out cataract surgery. During the operation, the surgeon will make a small incision in the eye so that they can access and extract the clouded lens. After the damaged lens has been removed, the surgeon will then implant a prosthetic lens. This new lens is transparent and in most cases, is made from plastic.

The entire operation can often be completed within an hour and most patients will not need to stay in the hospital overnight. The only people who may need to stay are those who have pre-existing conditions that might predispose them to post-operative complications.

Most people who undergo this procedure recover within a week or so. However, during this recovery period, some individuals may experience itchiness and mild pain in their affected eye. They may also experience a gritty sensation in the eye, find it uncomfortable to look at bright lights for more than a second or two and suffer from mild headaches. All of these symptoms should disappear of their own accord within a few days.