brought to you by the Pretoria Eye Institute :

The crystalline lens, situated behind the iris, is the primary focusing mechanism of the eye. As we age, this crystal clear lens becomes cloudy and yellow and loses its elasticity, or ability to change focus. This condition is called a cataract.

What causes Cataracts?

  • Ageing
    Natural ageing causes the hardening and clouding of the lens over a period of time which is experienced as a gradual reduction of vision.
  • Congenital
    It can occur in new born infants as a result of German Measles or any other viral infection occurring in the first three months of pregnancy of the mother. Certain medication taken by the mother during this early stage of pregnancy can also cause cataracts.
  • Trauma
    It can develop overnight due to the penetration of a sharp object of foreign body into the eye or a direct blow of the eye.
  • Diabetes
  • Some medicines such as steroids, anti-metabolites and chemotherapy
  • Heredity – The condition can run in families.

What are the symptoms?

  • Blurry vision
  • Some colours seem dull
  • Increased light sensitivity
  • Glare when driving or reading
  • Double vision or ghosting in the affected eye
  • Frequent changes in the prescription for glasses / contact lenses

When should an eye specialist be consulted?

  • Regular eye examinations by an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) are essential.
  • Sudden vision reduction needs an immediate examination.


During the eye examination, the following is done by the ophthalmologist:

  • Investigation of general health, family history, previous eye diseases and eye medication being taken.
  • Visual test to determine if reduced vision is due to a cataract or other causes like glaucoma, etc.
  • Examination after dilating the pupil to eliminate other pathological conditions.
  • Discussion.

If cataracts are diagnosed, treatment options will be discussed. If the cataracts do not limit normal activities, a change of spectacles may help temporarily. When they begin to affect daily lifestyle – glare and blur interfere with driving, reading or the favourite hobby, it is time to consider surgery.

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