When cataract surgery is offered 

Cataract surgery is usually offered on the NHS if you have cataracts that are affecting your ability to carry out daily activities.

For example, surgery may be offered if problems with your vision are causing difficulties reading, driving, or looking after someone in your care.

In the past, people with cataracts were encouraged to wait until they could hardly see. However, these days surgery to remove a cataract can be carried out at any stage once your sight has been affected.

There are no national guidelines stating what your level of vision needs to be before cataract surgery is carried out, although individual NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) may have their own criteria outlining when cataract surgery should be offered.

In some cases, cataract surgery may be recommended if you have another eye condition, such as diabetic retinopathy, that can't be monitored or treated properly if you have cataracts.

Waiting to have surgery

Cataracts tend to get gradually worse over time, although it isn't possible to predict how quickly this will happen.

Most people with cataracts will need surgery eventually, but immediate treatment may not be necessary if your vision isn't significantly affected.

It doesn't become more difficult to remove a cataract if you decide to wait before having surgery.

If immediate treatment isn't necessary or you decide to wait before having surgery, other measures may be helpful in the meantime, such as:

  • new glasses
  • brighter lighting
  • anti-glare sunglasses
  • magnifying lenses

There are no medications, eye drops, or dietary supplements that have been proven to improve cataracts or stop them getting worse.

Page last reviewed: 21/02/2016

Next review due: 21/02/2018