Cataracts occur when the normally clear lens of your eye becomes cloudy, restricting the amount of light that reaches your retina, leading to a decrease in vision.


There are many different causes of cataracts.

  • Age-related cataracts can occur as part of the ageing process and are more common in people over 60.
  • Secondary cataracts are caused by other medical conditions (eg, diabetes), inflammatory eye conditions or an inflammatory skin condition (eg, eczema).
  • Traumatic cataracts are caused by injury to the eye or lens.
  • Congenital cataracts are present at birth or develop in early childhood. They may be caused by an illness or infection during pregnancy, or as the result of a genetic defect.
  • Toxic cataracts can result from chemical toxicity (poison) or long-term use of some medications, such as corticosteroids (like prednisone).

High blood pressure and glaucoma may also be a cause of cataracts.

Smoking and alcohol have been linked to the development of cataracts.

This topic sheet was provided by Healthline.


If you are developing cataracts you may notice:

  • cloudy, blurry, fuzzy, foggy or filmy vision
  • the pupil of your eye looking cloudy
  • increased glare from lights, such as from headlights when driving at night
  • a decrease in distance vision but an improvement in near vision
  • double vision (diplopia)
  • frequent changes in eye prescriptions
  • impairment of colour vision
  • poor vision in sunlight.

If you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor or an optometrist to be checked for cataracts.


Your doctor or optometrist will examine your eyes with an ophthalmoscope – a hand-held instrument fitted with a lens and light that lets them see the inside of your eye.

If cataracts are suspected, you’ll need to see an eye specialist (ophthalmologist). The eye specialist may carry out more detailed examinations of your eyes and vision to find out the exact location and extent of the cataracts. They’ll then recommend appropriate treatment.

When to seek help

See your doctor, optometrist or ophthalmologist, or call Healthline on 0800 611 116 if you have any concerns about your vision.


The symptoms of early cataracts may be improved with new prescription glasses, better lighting or effective sunglasses. However, once cataracts affect your ability to do your daily activities, surgery is the only treatment that will help.

Cataract surgery

Cataract surgery is most commonly performed as a day-stay procedure.

The surgery is usually carried out under a local anaesthetic with a light sedation. Surgery involves making a small incision in the front of your eye, through which the old lens is removed and a new intraocular lens is inserted.

The surgery is generally straightforward and recovery is quick and rarely painful.

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