Below we explain what a cataract is in an adult, what symptoms you may experience, and how it may be treated.

A cataract is an eye condition in which the natural lens becomes cloudy over time: This can become significant if it affects clarity of sight and is left untreated.

Cataract is a common eye condition . Some cataracts are caused by other eye disease but most develop spontaneously with advancing age or if there is a family history of the disorder. Rarely, some children are born with or develop cataract early in life.

You may hear the terms ‘congenital‘ (cataract present from birth or shortly after),  ‘infantile‘ (developed in babies after 6 months) or ‘developmental‘ (developed in older children).

The management and treatment of this condition is different. Please refer to further reading below.


  • Progressively blurred or misty vision not corrected by glasses
  • Affected by bright lights, including bright sunlight and car headlights
  • Fading and washing out of colours
  • Difficulty with vision at night

Your GP or Optometrist will refer you to an eye specialist for assessment.


The only effective treatment for cataracts is to remove and replace the cloudy natural lens with an artificial plastic one in an operation under local anaesthetic. The operation is quite short, up to 30 minutes, available through the NHS, and generally done in day surgery . The results are excellent and the risk of complications is very low.

Further reading

Understanding Cataracts, RNIB, November 2010,

Further online information

For more detailed information about adult cataract, visit
Patient website

For more detailed information about congenital cataracts, visit:


This information can be made available in Braille, or audio CD should you require it, from

Explore our other pages on eye conditions

Retinitis Pigmentosa | Charles Bonnet Syndrome | Chronic Glaucoma | Diabetic Retinopathy | Nystagmus | Macular degeneration | Hemianopia


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