Cataracts, age related


Cataracts, age related
Cataracts, age related

Cataracts are when the lens, a small transparent disc inside your eye, develops cloudy patches.

Over time these patches usually become bigger causing blurry, misty vision and eventually blindness.

When we're young, our lenses are usually like clear glass, allowing us to see through them.  As we get older, they start to become frosted, like bathroom glass, and begin to limit our vision.

Cataracts usually appear in both eyes.  They may not necessarily develop at the same time or be the same in each eye.

They're more common in older adults and can affect your ability to carry out daily activities such as driving.

Cataracts can also affect babies and young children.  For more information, read about childhood cataracts.

When to seek medical advice

Everyone over 60 is entitled to a regular free eye examination under the NHS but you should see an optometrist(optician) if you have any of these symptoms:

  • your eyesight is blurred or misty
  • you find lights too bright or glaring
  • you find it hard to see in low light
  • colours look faded

If you wear glasses, you may feel your lenses are dirty and need cleaning, even when they don't.

Cataracts aren't usually painful and don't make your eyes red or irritated,

Testing for age-related cataracts

Your optometrist(optician) will do a series of eye tests, including measuring how well you can see at various distances

If your optometrist(optician) thinks you have significant cataracts, they may put drops in your eyes to check for other eye conditions and ask you a series of questions about your lifestyle and any symptoms you are experiencing. After this, if you agree you would like to consider surgery, you may be referred to an eye specialist (opthalmologist) for more tests and treatment.

Find your nearest Optician Services

Treating age-related cataracts

If your cataracts are at an early stage, stronger glasses and brighter reading lights may be enough to alleviate your symptoms.

If you have been told by an Optometrist that you have cataract it is very important that you attend your regular NHS eye examination as sometime changes are so slow people aren’t aware that their vision has got worse. It is also important to check for other eye conditions that may be present.

It can take years, but cataracts get worse over time, so you are likely to be offered referral for  surgery to remove and replace the affected lens.

Surgery is the only treatment that's proven to be effective for cataracts.

Driving and cataracts

If you have cataracts, it could affect your ability to drive.

You do not need to tell the DVLA if you have (or previously had) cataracts and you still meet the visual standards for driving

If you drive a bus, coach or lorry, you do not need to tell the DVLA if you have (or previously had) cataracts and:

  • you still meet the visual standards for driving
  • you do not have an increased sensitivity to glare because of the cataract

For more information, read about cataracts and driving on the GOV.UK website.

What causes age-related cataracts?

Most people as they age are likely to be told they at least have the start of cataracts at some point over the age of 60. Sometimes these cataracts can be very slow growing and do not cause a problem for a long time, others grow quicker. It is not clear why they form quicker in some people but the following can contribute to cataract formation (not all strictly age-related)

  • History of long periods working outside
  • Growing up in a hot country
  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • eye injury
  • long-term use of steroids
  • drinking too much alcohol

There is no guaranteed way to prevent cataracts but making some lifestyle changes may lower the chances of them developing.

The information on this page has been adapted by NHS Wales from original content supplied by NHS UK NHS website
Last Updated: 19/10/2021 12:22:22