What Causes Cataracts?

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

The lens of your eye is located just behind your pupil and its function is to help focus light onto the specialised cells on your retina. It is suspended between ligaments and muscles on either side, which stretch and relax to make your lens thicker or thinner, making sure you always get a sharp image. The lens is made of clear cells of different types: elastic collagen, protein fibres and epithelial cells.


Cataract symptoms

Cataracts are opaque areas within the lens, caused by the buildup of protein. Some opacities are small and do not interfere with vision. However other larger cataracts can block the smooth flow of light. The symptoms can vary from person to person, but early signs of cataracts may include:

  • Blurred or cloudy vision
  • Dazzling from lights, especially at night time
  • Greater sensitivity to light
  • Yellowing of vision, so that colours are less vibrant
  • Glasses are less effective despite a change of prescription

Cataracts generally affect both eyes and if left unattended can eventually lead to blindness.


What causes cataracts?

There are several different factors that can contribute to cataract formation, including advancing age, smoking, a family history of cataracts and taking steroids for long periods. A history of eye trauma can also lead to the formation of cataract in the affected eye, as can previous eye surgery. Other eye conditions such as glaucoma increase the risk of developing cataracts as well as, perhaps surprisingly being very short sighted. Exposure to UV light may also be a cause.

There are also particular types of cataracts that can affect young children, but the occurrence is rare. Congenital cataracts are usually present when a baby is born, or juvenile cataracts may be diagnosed in older babies and children. For babies and children, it is vital to spot cataracts early in order to avoid severe long-term complications, including blindness.


Diabetic cataracts

Diabetic cataracts are cataracts that develop because you have diabetes. Having diabetes can cause cataracts to develop faster and in earlier life. It is thought that excess blood sugar due to diabetes can make your eye lens become cloudy and form a cataract.

You can help prevent and reduce your risk of developing diabetic cataracts by maintaining good control of your blood sugar and attending annual eye exams. Early detection is key and eye checks are important even before you have any signs of vision impairment.

Cataract surgery can be performed to remove the clouded lenses of diabetic cataracts


Cataract Treatment

The only way to completely cure cataracts is with cataract surgery. Eye drops, medication and lotions do not work and may in fact make your cataract symptoms worse. Cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure carried out in the UK and has a high success rate with few complications. The procedure involves removing the opaque lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. Local anesthetic is usually used, and the operation takes under an hour, so cataract surgery is typically a day case – you do not need to stay in hospital but you will need someone to take you home and to look after you for the first 24 hours, as your eye will be covered to protect it from injury. If both eyes require surgery, you will have two separate operations, around 12 weeks apart.


After Cataract Surgery

Following removal of cataracts, most people still need to wear glasses and it could take some time for your vision to adapt. But it will. Perhaps surprisingly cataract symptoms can recur following cataract surgery. This will be due to opacities forming in the sac that surrounds the new lens. However, it can be easily remedied with laser therapy.


About Ramsay Health Care

At Ramsay Health Care we are proud to work in partnership with some of the highest qualified and experienced cosmetic surgeons, ophthalmologist, orthopaedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, pain management consultants and physiotherapists in the UK. Our holistic care offers you the best treatment!

At Ramsay you won’t have to wait for an appointment for your cataract surgery. Your treatment may be covered by medical insurance and self-pay packages are available on request. We have first class facilities and all self-funding and most privately insured patients can enjoy exclusive benefits including superb food, a relaxing environment, priority access and appointments to suit your lifestyle. Our aim is to help you feel like a guest as well as a patient.

Register your interest to hear from us