A cataract is cause by a change in the structure of the natural lens

Key facts:

  • Start developing in people as they get older
  • Can occur at birth, due to drugs or trauma (less common)
  • Age related cataract are very common
  • Stops the light from reaching the back of the eye and affects vision
  • They develop over many years
  • Requires surgery to remove and replace the affected lens.

Risk factors:

  • Age – Over 60s at greater risk.
  • Smoking – Can occur at an earlier age due to smoking.
  • Genetics – family history increases the risk.
  • Diet – poor diet can cause deficiencies in the vitamins, mineral and antioxidants needed to main a healthy lens.
  • Medication – taking certain medication like corticosteroids at high dose or for a long time.
  • Sunlight – prolonged light exposure from the blue end of the visual spectrum can increase oxidative damage, leading to cataracts earlier.
  • Alcohol – drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
  • Diabetes – cataracts start earlier in diabetics and may affect monitoring of diabetic retinopathy

Risk factor often occur in combination and it is not possible to pin the condition down to one reason or another.

What can i do:

  • Having regular eye checks will help pick up the condition sooner, and may even be before you experience any symptoms.
  • Look at your lifestyle, take regular exercise, quit smoking, have a diet rich in green leafy vegetables.
  • Assessing your lifestyle with your Optometrist can identify areas that may place you at higher risk.
  • Using good quality sunglasses will help protect your eyes form harmful UV light.


Treatment for cataracts is done surgically by removing the affected lenses and replacing it with a ocular implant. The surgery is quick, taking under 20 minutes, one eye is done at a time, vision is restored almost immediately.

You can be referred via the NHS, which takes a few months. A referral is sent via your GP to the hospital eye service where an eye surgeon (Ophthalmologist) will assess you and discuss the treatment plan.

You can also be referred privately through you health insurance provider or to a private eye hospital.