By Tina D. Turner, M.D. Updated by Sefy Paulose, M.D., March, 2022

Treatment: Surgical Removal

The permanent fix for cataracts it to remove the cataract surgically. To date, there are no medications or eye drops that have been proven to reverse cataract formation. However, your doctor may see if changing your glasses prescription will help you obtain better vision in the meantime. This is because cataracts can cause nearsightedness. However, the only treatment for a cataract is surgical removal of the natural lens.

When to Remove?

Most age-related cataracts are a normal part of aging so simply “having” a cataract, should not mean it should be removed. Many people with cataracts do not have any visual symptoms. If you are told you have a cataract, but it does not interfere with your activities of daily life or prevent you from leading an active and productive life, then your doctor may tell you the cataract can be monitored. However, if you are experiencing difficulty reading, disabling glare while driving or difficulty engaging in your normal activities of life – it may be time to consider cataract surgery. In summary, the right time to remove a cataract depends on the patient and their symptoms. However, if an individual has cataracts in both eyes that both require surgeries, these surgeries will usually be performed a few weeks apart. Cataract surgery on both eyes at the same time is not recommended because there is a possibility of complications affecting both eyes; the most worrisome is infection.

Professor John Hull (1935-2015), Author of Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness

head shot of Professor John Hull The late Professor John Hull is the author of Touching the Rock: An Experience of Blindness, his compelling memoir that documents the process of becoming blind. As a young university lecturer in the early ’60s, Hull had adapted to cataracts and the early signs of retinal detachment brought on by numerous surgeries. “For the first few years after I registered as being blind,” he said, “I was not, in effect, a blind person. I was a sighted person who couldn’t see. It’s such a difference. It wasn’t until the light sensation completely vanished and I knew there was no way back that I said, ‘I’ve got to try to understand blindness; otherwise it will destroy my life.'” Learn more about ways to find emotional support for you – and your family members – after a vision loss diagnosis:

How Much Should the Cataract Develop Before Having Surgery?

A cataract does not have to become “ripe” before it can be removed. In the past, the lens could not be extracted safely from the eye unless it was at a relatively advanced stage of development. With modern advances in cataract surgery, the lens can now be removed from the eye at any stage of development.

The Patient’s Decision

It’s important to understand that it is the patient who should – and must – make the decision to undergo cataract surgery. It is the doctor’s responsibility to educate patients and give them the knowledge they need to make an independent and well-informed decision regarding cataract treatment.