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Glasses may help improve vision in the early stages of cataracts.

Glasses may help improve vision in the early stages of cataracts.
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Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in adults worldwide. Most people by the time they are 80 years old have cataracts to some degree. However, in most cases cataracts can be successfully treated and vision restored.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye or the surrounding fluid and can occur in one or both eyes. Mostly older people develop cataracts, but younger people can also get cataracts and, in rare cases, babies may be born with cataracts.

Cataracts are more common in people who smoke, have spent a lot of time in the sun without good eye protection, have had eye injuries or have taken certain medications, such as steroids.

Cataract symptoms

Cataracts can make your vision blurred or distorted, make you sensitive to glare, or give you the sense of seeing double. If you have cataracts, you may also have trouble reading, driving at night or seeing faces or other details clearly.

If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, or your vision isn’t what it used to be, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your optometrist. Cataracts can usually be diagnosed by an eye exam, but sometimes an imaging procedure, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan or ultrasound, is used to look at the back of the eye.

Cataracts treatment

Glasses may help to improve vision in the early stages, but surgery is the only effective long-term treatment because cataracts get progressively worse in adults, although that may not be the case in some children.

Surgical treatment of cataracts is very safe and usually involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. The procedure generally only requires a local anaesthetic.

There are no effective medications to prevent or treat cataracts.

Let your doctor know if you have had cataract surgery in the past or may need cataract surgery in the future. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists advises this is important information to consider prior to taking medicines such as tamsulosin or other related medicines. For more information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.

Last reviewed: May 2015

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