Cataracts - Must I have Surgery
Monday 16 May 2016

This question arises many times when patients consult me regarding their cataracts.

Typically, by the time the majority of patients present, it is because their cataracts are reducing their vision and compromising their ability to perform visually demanding activities eg reading, watching TV, driving, playing golf etc

For the majority of patients it is important to understand that the mere presence of a cataract is not physically harmful to the eye, and therefore does not automatically mean that something has to be done about it.

However, if the cataract is reducing vision enough to prevent someone being able to do what is needed/wanted, surgery is the only way that the vision will be improved/restored.

But what about before things have reached this point?

Although there has been recent publicity about new drops that may be able to reverse cataracts in future, this is still a concept in development, and even then unlikely to be a realistic treatment for patients that have already lost visual function.

However, there are many factors that contribute to the development of cataract that we can try to influence in order to reduce the risk/delay the onset of cataract. A few examples are:

Exposure to UV light from the sun can accelerate cataract development so wearing a good quality pair of sunglasses with 100% UV protection can reduce the risk. Taking antioxidants by mouth may reduce the risk – vitamin C, vitamin E, and betacarotene Smoking also generates free radicals in the body and increases the risk of cataract development – yet another reason to give up… Being diabetic increases the risk of earlier cataract development. Having good control of diabetes will potentially reduce the speed of onset and the severity of cataracts. Diabetic control is also important as poor control increases the risk of surgical complications – the better the control of the diabetes the lower the relative risk. Taking other nutritional supplements such as vitamin B, carnosine, lutein and zeoxanthin has also been associated with lower risk of cataract development. In addition lutein and zeoxanthin are recognized to reduce the risk of development of age related macular degeneration.

If you are worried that cataracts may be affecting you, a detailed eye examination is the only way to be able to determine how far the cataracts have progressed and whether treatment is indicated in the short term. For more information or to book an appointment with Mr Saj Khan, Consultant Ophthalmologist at North Downs Hospital visit us at or call 0800 0468036.

Share this article