What is a cataract?

Stories | July 12, 2022

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness, responsible for just over half (51%) of the cases of blindness around the world. That’s around 20 million people – most of them living in developing countries. Many are people with disabilities.

What is a cataract?

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. The World Health Organization reports that about 80% of vision impairment is 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, they can also occur in younger people and children. Children, especially, require early detection and treatment, so their eyesight usually develops.

Cataract, Sight Saving Surgery, Miracles Day
Image: What is a cataract?

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

The first and foremost 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 of cataracts?

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

How are cataracts treated?

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.

About Miracles Day

Thursday, 18 August 2022 is Miracles Day. On this day, Australians can give someone the Miracle gift of sight, with a 12-minute operation costing just $33.

This year is the 10th anniversary of Miracles Day, and you can help give over 50,000 people worldwide the sight-saving surgery they need to see again.

To find out more, visit cbm.org.au/miraclesday

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