What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of part of your eye called the lens. Your vision becomes blurred or dim because light cannot pass through the clouded lens to the back of the eye.

The lens


The lens is a transparent body behind the iris, the coloured part of the eye. The lens bends light rays so that they give a clear image to the back of the eye – the retina. As the lens is elastic, it will change shape, getting fatter for close objects and thinner for distant objects. The diagram below shows the main parts of the eye.

What causes a cataract?

Cataracts can form at any age, but most often they develop as people get older due to lack of antioxidants in the diet that counteract the free radical damage that is particularly prevalent in the eye. In others and younger people they can result from an injury, certain drugs, long-standing inflammation or illnesses such as diabetes which is subject to extra free radical damage as a result of high glucose levels (see Starch Study).

Some symptoms

1. “I’m not seeing as well as I used to”
You may notice that some things seem blurred round the edges, or that your glasses seem dirty or scratched.

2. Seeing double
The cloudiness in the lens may occur in more than one place, so that the light rays that reach the retina are split, causing a double image.

3. Poor vision in bright light
You may find that bright light or very sunny days make it more difficult to see.

4. Change of color vision
As the cataract develops its centre becomes more and more yellow, giving everything you see a yellowish tinge.


Congenital Cataract?

A congenital cataract is an opacity (cloudiness) in the lens of the eye that is present at, or develops shortly after, birth.

The human lens is located behind the pupil and has an important function. It focuses rays of light into the retina to allow image formation. As the lens is able to change is shape, it can focus objects at different distances. Its cells are arranged so that it is transparent, like glass or water. When this arrangement is disturbed in any way, the transparency is lost and an opacity results. This results in blurring and blocking of the retinal image.

In the case of a newborn infant, a cataract causes the immature visual system to be deprived of the stimulation needed for normal development. If left untreated, permanent visual loss may occur. It is thought that starchy foods eaten in high levels during the pregnancy or given to the infant in the first 24 months may be the cause of the problem.

Inherited Congenital Cataracts

Approximately 0.03% of newborns have some form of congenital cataract. Most are not associated with additional development problems. Around one fifth of these have a family history of congenital cataract but in up to half of all cases there is no family history. Congenital cataracts at present account for the largest proportion of partially sighted and blind registered children in the UK.

What can be done to help?

1. The Alternative:

The first method must always be to change your lifestyle and take the nutrients that will reverse the problem in the majority of people. Diet and nutrition hast been shown to slow or stop the development of the cataract. See the Action Plan Link at the top of this page

2. Conventional Treatment:

The last resort for cataracts is a small operation to remove the cloudy lens. Laser cannot perform this although laser treatment is sometimes needed afterwards. This is a last resort as although the majority get good results; a small percentage are still left worse off.