What is a cataract?

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in South Africa, responsible for about 50% of the prevalence of blindness and identified as a national health priority. (SAOA)

Cataracts develop slowly over time and are not an emergency, it is a gradual change. Age-related cataracts are the most common form, the normal process of aging causes the lens to harden and become cloudy. They can occur at any time after the age of 40 but are most common in people 60 years and older.

Although most cataracts are age related, there are other types, including congenital (present at birth), drug induced (steroids), and traumatic (injury to the eye). Cataracts are also more common in people who have certain diseases, such as diabetes.

The lens of the eye is situated behind the iris (the coloured portion of the eye) and focuses light onto your retina which sends messages to the brain allowing us to see. A cataract is a “clouding” of this lens and this causes:

  • blurred vision: dull and fuzzy
  • a glare
  • a loss of colour detail
  • frequent changes of spectacles.

This condition can be easily treated with a surgical procedure in which the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. This procedure is usually successful in restoring normal vision and is extremely safe.

So, if you have the symptoms mentioned above you should see an Ophthalmologist, or ask your Optometrist to check for cataracts before you are prescribed new glasses.