Cataracts refer to a cloudiness or marks on the lens inside the eye. Some babies may be born with cataracts, or they may develop in younger people due to other disease or damage to the eye. However, the majority of cataracts are associated with getting older. People with early cataracts may find that they have trouble driving at night, or need extra light to see fine detail. As cataracts develop, they can cause serious loss of vision, however in New Zealand, we have very effective surgical treatments available. The surgery involves using tiny instruments to remove the cloudy lens material, and a small artificial lens is inserted into the eye. Many people will need reading glasses to fine tune their vision following the surgery.
Cataracts are very common, and some people will have other eye diseases in addition to cataracts. Timing of cataract surgery will be tailored to the individual patient’s specific circumstances. Sometimes the surgeon will advise that removing a cataract will not be expected to improve vision, e.g. because of macular disease, and surgery is therefore not recommended. On the other hand, if a patient has diabetes, cataract surgery may be recommended early so that the eye specialists can preserve a good view of the retina, and make sure they spot any diabetic eye disease early.