Eye Health

Updated 26 September 2018

Course and prognosis of cataracts

As cataracts progress and become larger or denser, they progressively cloud the lens of the eye.

At first, a cataract has little effect on vision, and cataracts often develop so slowly that we’re unaware of them. If the cataract is on the outer edge of the lens, no change in vision may be noticed. Cloudiness near the centre of the lens usually interferes with sight.

Small cataracts that don’t affect vision may not require treatment. However, as cataracts progress and become larger or denser, they progressively cloud the lens, causing significant vision changes.

Severe cataracts can interfere with an independent lifestyle by preventing older adults from performing normal activities. Eventually the entire lens becomes white, which will cause blindness. This is usually reversible with an operation.

Glaucoma or inflammation can be a complication of advanced cataracts.

Reviewed by ophthalmologist Dr Viresh Dullabh, MBBCh (Wits) FC Ophth SA (CMSA) MMED (UKZN). September 2018.

Read more:

Causes of cataracts

Symptoms of cataracts


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Megan Goodman qualified as an optometrist from the University of Johannesburg. She has recently completed a Masters degree in Clinical Epidemiology at Stellenbosch University. She has a keen interest in ocular pathology and evidence based medicine as well as contact lenses.

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