What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens inside the eye.

Normally, light rays pass through the clear lens inside the eye and are focussed on the retina. When the precise arrangement of proteins inside the lens is disturbed, the light passing through it is scattered and absorbed, and causes a hazy image on the retina.

What causes cataracts?

The most common cause of a cataract is change that occurs with ageing. The natural lens in the eye becomes yellow or white.

There are many other conditions which can cause cataracts at a younger age, such as diabetes, trauma, infection, radiation and metabolic diseases. Children can develop cataracts and babies can sometimes be born with cataracts.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

Early cataracts typically cause increased glare, difficulty to see clearly (especially in dim light) and a sensation often described as “seeing through a film”. It causes decreased contrast sensitivity (ability to distinguish different shades) and colours are not so vivid any more.

As cataracts advance, your spectacle prescription may change more frequently, or you may not be able to read clearly or see clearly in the distance, even with spectacles. It can even cause a double image.

How are cataracts treated?

The only treatment available for cataracts is surgical, which means an eye operation.

At the Garden Route Eye Clinic, we utilise the most modern technology available to perform cataract surgery.

The cataract is removed from the eye through a very small opening with an instrument utilising ultrasound energy. A new clear lens is inserted in the exact place of the old lens and unfolds inside the eye. This is performed under topical anaesthesia – it is totally painless.

There is an anaesthetist present who usually performs conscious sedation, which means that you do not need a deep general anaesthetic. However, the surgery can also be performed under general anaesthesia.

All surgery is performed on an outpatient basis – the patient can return home on the same day.

Can I ever get cataracts again after surgery?

No, cataracts can fortunately never reoccur, and the intra-ocular lens implant lasts a lifetime.

However, the posterior capsule – a thin clear membrane behind the lens, sometimes becomes hazy and needs to be “cleaned”. If it becomes necessary, it is done with a specially designed LASER, at the consultation rooms. It takes a few minutes and is completely painless. Usually this procedure needs to be performed only once after cataract surgery.

Will I still need glasses after cataract surgery?

With modern cataract surgery we aim to make patients less dependant on their spectacles.

Advanced technology intra-ocular lenses are now available which reduce astigmatism, correct for near- or farsightedness and even multifocal lenses which aim to make glasses unnecessary.

However, each patient and each eye is different – ask one of our specialists for the optimal solution for your particular situation.


At Garden Route Eye Clinic,
we believe in integrity and compassionate care.