What is a cataract?

A cataract develops when protein builds up in the lens of your eye causing it to become cloudy, gradually making it hard for you to see.1

In most cases, a cataract develops as a natural part of the ageing process and is something we are all at risk of, especially once we are over 60.1 Certain medical conditions (such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity) may increase your risk of developing a cataract. It may also occur as a result of exposure to ultraviolet light, smoking or even from long-term steroid use.2

If left untreated, a cataract can seriously affect your vision and even cause blindness.3

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Despite cataract being the leading cause of blindness, 80% of people aged 60 and older (the most at-risk group) have little or no knowledge about the condition.

--More to See Survey4
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How many people have cataract?

The prevalence of cataract increases with age.

Millions of people around the world have cataract and this number is growing as the world population ages.5

Cataract is the most common cause of preventable blindness and is responsible for loss of sight in more than 20 million people worldwide.5

Surgery is the only treatment for a cataract. Cataract surgery removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with an artificial lens known as an intraocular lens, or IOL. Cataract surgery is a common, effective and relatively quick procedure. It is often carried out as day surgery under local anaesthetic.6

Wider impact of cataract

Having a cataract has a great impact on people’s independence, and physical and mental well-being:

independence

independence

48% of people with a cataract admit that fear of a crash inhibits their driving.7

confidence

confidence

Those with a cataract are more likely to experience symptoms of depression.7

physical well-being

physical well-being

A person with an untreated cataract has a 24% greater chance of fracturing their hip from a fall.8

The results of the More to See survey show that people are afraid of how the loss of vision associated with a cataract could affect their lives.

1. National Eye Institute. Facts about cataract. Available at: https://nei.nih.gov/health/cataract/cataract_facts Last accessed March 2017.

2. Mayo Clinic. Cataracts: symptoms and causes. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cataracts/symptoms-causes/dxc-20215129 Last accessed March 2017.

3. International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness. Cataract. Available at: http://www.iapb.org/vision-2020/what-is-avoidable-blindness/cataract Last accessed March 2017.

4. 5,104 people aged 60 and older (4,356 persons with an additional 748 who had already been treated for cataracts) were recruited to participate in a survey across 12 countries within Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The 748 respondents that had had cataract surgery were asked additional questions to find out about their treatment experiences. The survey revealed a significant gap in cataract awareness, including limited knowledge of its symptoms and treatment options.

5. World Health Organization. Prevention of blindness and visual impairment. Priority eye diseases: cataract. Available at: http://www.who.int/blindness/causes/priority/en/index1.html Last accessed March 2017.

6. NHS Choices. Cataract surgery. Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Cataract-surgery/Pages/Introduction.aspx Last accessed March 2017.

7. Fraser ML, Meuleners LB, Ng JQ, Morlet N. Driver self-regulation and depressive symptoms in cataract patients awaiting surgery: a cross-sectional study. BMC Ophthalmol. 2013;13:45.

8. Ivers RQ, Cumming RG, Mitchell P, Simpson JM, Peduto AJ. Visual risk factors for hip fracture in older people. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2003;51:356-63.