What is a Cataract?

Stories | July 21, 2020

Cataract Facts

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, responsible for just over half [51%] the cases of blindness around the world.

That’s around 20 million people – the majority of them living in developing countries.

A cataract is the milky clouding of the eye lens. Cataracts can occur in one or both eyes.

Trying to see with a cataract has been likened to fogging on a camera lens.

Cataracts reduce clear vision and if left untreated, can cause permanent, lifelong damage and blindness.

Blindness from cataracts is also avoidable in most cases, in fact the World Health Organisation reports that about 80% of vision impairment is considered avoidable.

Sadly, many people with cataracts in developing countries lack access to affordable eye care and surgery.

While cataracts are most commonly diagnosed among people aged 60 and up, it can occur in younger people and children too.

Children, especially, require early detection and treatment so their eyesight continues to develop normally.


The first, and main, symptom of cataracts is blurry vision.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Increased difficulty seeing at night
  • Sensitivity to light and glare
  • A need for brighter light when reading
  • Distortion or ‘double vision’ in the affected eye

Who is at Risk?

Some eye diseases, including cataracts, are hereditary.

Other causes of cataracts include:

  • Diabetes
  • Long-term and unprotected exposure to UV sunlight
  • Smoking
  • Eye trauma caused by injury


The great news is that there are very safe surgical treatments available.

Cataract surgery involves an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) removing the clouded lens from the eye and replacing it with a clear, artificial lens. This lens is very durable and should last a lifetime.

If surgery on both eyes is required, procedures will be conducted separately and several weeks apart.

In about 90% of cases, people who have cataract surgery have better vision as a result.


Miracles Day gives Australians the opportunity to give someone the Miracle gift of sight, with a 12-minute operation costing just $33.  This year, through Miracles Day, you can help give 35,000 people the sight-saving surgery they need to see again.

Miracles Day happens across Australia on August 18. To find out more or to donate, visit cbm.org.au/miraclesday

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