As we age proteins in the lens in the eye begin to break down, this causes the lens to become cloudy. This usually happens very slowly, so at first most people are unaware of the condition.
There is a decrease in the clarity of vision that cannot be corrected with spectacles, colours become faded and there is an increased sensitivity to light and glare. A halo also appears around lights.
There is no way to stop cataracts from forming, but there is evidence that you can slow the progress of cataracts by protecting the eyes from UV light. There is also evidence that smoking increases the rate of cataracts forming, so stopping will reduce the speed that the cataracts will form.
Treatment consists of surgical removal of the cataract and replacement with an artificial lens. Surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthetic. Although cataracts may be present in both eyes, only one eye will be operated on at a time.
Under the NHS a cataract will only be removed if vision is reduced to a certain level and has an impact on quality of life. Your optometrist will advise you when your vision has reached that level. A cataract can be removed privately at any time subject to the ophthalmologist's agreement.
After surgery, the need to use spectacles will often be reduced, but not eliminated, so you may still need to wear spectacles.
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