What is the lens?
The lens is a clear crystalline structure within the eye that helps focus light on the retina, the light-sensitive tissue located at the back of the eye. In order to help produce a sharp image, the lens must remain clear and flexible.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a gradual, painless clouding of the normally transparent lens of the eye, located behind the iris.
As the lens becomes more opaque, it prevents light rays from passing through the lens and focusing on the retina. The effect is similar to looking through a frosted or opaque glass window. Contrary to popular belief, a cataract is not a skin that grows over your eye.
Although cataracts usually develop as part of the ageing process, they can also result from eye injuries, certain diseases such as diabetes, medications such as steroids, or genetic inheritance.
What are the symptoms of an eye with a cataract?
One of the earliest signs of a cataract may be a changing prescription. Early lens changes or opacities may not disturb vision, but as the lens continues to become more cloudy, symptoms including blurred vision, sensitivity to light and glare, increased nearsightedness or distorted images in may develop.
Cataracts are extremely common. It is estimated that approximately 70% of people in the UK aged over 65 years of age have cataracts.
Aside from surgery, there are alternative treatments such as medications that can reverse the effects of a cataract.
When does a cataract require treatment?
With modern surgical techniques it is possible to operate on a cataract at a relatively early stage, contrary to the misconception of the cataract needing to be mature or ‘ripe’. There is no specific level of vision at which cataract surgery is indicated, but it is usually recommended if the quality of your vision is reduced such that is affecting your lifestyle. Surgery is also indicated if you wish to drive and your vision no longer meets the necessary DVLA legal standard.