Age-related cataract is one of the most common causes of visual impairment in Australia and worldwide. Cataracts can also develop in individuals with metabolic disorders (for example, diabetes) and as a result of trauma to the eye.

Cataracts occur when the normally clear, crystalline lens in the eye becomes cloudy. The lens is the part of the eye that allows a focused image to be transmitted onto the retina.

The effects of cataracts on visual function include reduced detailed vision and reduced ability to detect low contrast information in visual scenes. Cataracts due to aging usually develop slowly and affect both eyes at different rates.

Surgical lens extraction and insertion of a replacement plastic lens is the standard procedure for restoring visual function once cataracts have developed. This is a highly successful procedure that is widely practised in Australia with few adverse effects.

Functional implications of a cataract include:

  • Having difficulty seeing traffic when crossing the road
  • Having difficulty driving
  • Having difficulty reading
  • Having difficulty judging depth
  • Seeing a halo or double vision around lights at night
  • Seeing images as if through a veil
  • Being particularly sensitive to glare and light
  • Having dulled colour vision.

For further information, visit the Better Health Channel or Optometrists Association Australia.

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