Do I need an operation for cataracts?

Dr Mark Porter / 12 December 2016 ( 05 August 2019 )

Dr Porter advises a reader who is shocked to learn he has cataracts on both eyes.

Q: I have just had a routine eye test and was shocked to discover I have early cataracts in both eyes.  I am in my sixties and, besides needing to wear reading glasses, have always thought I had perfect vision.  Does this mean I will need an operation?

A: A cataract is an opacity of the lens of the eye and most are age related – as many as a third of people in their sixties will have cataracts to some degree, as will around three-quarters of those in their seventies. 

Cataracts: causes and symptoms

The majority of people with cataracts never need to have them treated. You only need referral to an eye surgeon if you are experiencing symptoms that affect your ability to perform day-to-day tasks, or interfere with your pursuits or hobbies. 

Typical symptoms include blurred distant vision, difficulty distinguishing colours, troublesome glare (particularly when driving at night) and problems reading or doing close work even when wearing glasses. 

And even if you do need surgery it is nothing to be worried about.  The damaged lens is removed under local anaesthesia (often just eye drops) and replaced with a synthetic one, and in terms of outcome it is the most successful surgical operation offered on the NHS.

Cataract surgery - what you need to know

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.