What are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a natural result of ageing. The eye’s natural crystalline lens helps us focus on people and things at varying distances^1^. Unfortunately, as we grow older, this lens gradually changes to become less transparent (clear). This leads to cloudy or misty vision – cataracts. Over time a cataract can get worse, gradually making your vision mistier^2^.


While cataracts can occur as a result of other eye diseases, they mostly develop naturally with age. In fact, by age 65, many of us will develop a cataract^2^.

Other less common causes include heredity, birth defects, chronic diseases such as diabetes, excessive use of steroid medications, and certain eye injuries^2^.

Read more on our Vision and Age section.



Cataracts in babies

Normally, babies are born with a transparent lens in each eye that brings objects into focus, making it possible for the eye to see. Instead of a transparent lens, some babies are born with a milky white lens, which is too cloudy to focus on objects^4^. This condition is called a cataract. 

Read more on our Vision and Age section.


Heredity is the most common cause of cataracts in babies and young children. In recent years, other causes have been found, such as a mother contracting German measles while pregnant^5^.


It is hard to spot signs of cataracts in babies and young children; however, routine eye examinations within 72 hours of birth and at six to eight weeks screen for cataracts^5^.


Cataracts in newborn babies should be addressed as early as possible, preferably within the first three months of life, because obstructed vision can prevent important stages of their development^6^.
The surgical procedure for cataracts in babies is much like it is for adults, involving the removal of the affected lens in the eye. Depending on your baby’s age and eye development, the surgeon may implant a new, plastic lens to replace the original.

  1. Bergstrom Eye and Laser Clinic. Cataracts – A natural effect of Aging. Available at: []
  2. NHS. Age-related cataracts. 2016. Available at: []
  3. National Eye Institute. Facts about cataracts. 2015. Available at: []
  4. All About Vision. Congenital Cataracts. 2016. Available at: []
  5. NHS. Cataracts childhood. Available at: []
  6. Royal National Institute of Blind People. Congenital cataracts. Available at: [] 


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