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What are cataracts?

Cataracts are caused by a build-up of protein that clouds the eye’s lens, which can lead to blurred vision and eventual blindness.

A man has his eyes checked for trachoma in Ghana.

Cataracts are often thought to only affect older people, but in developing countries they are a huge problem for children too.

Cataracts can be present from birth, or may develop as a result of eye injuries or following eye surgery for other problems. Although cataracts are not difficult to treat, it’s vital for children that the condition is caught in time or it can cause the eye to stop developing, meaning sight can never be properly restored.

See what the world looks like to a child with cataracts

20 million
people are blind because of cataracts
260,000
cataract operations were supported by Sightsavers in 2016
$78
can pay for a child cataract operation

How are cataracts treated?

Surgical staff perform a cataract operation.

Surgery

A cataract operation takes as little as 20 minutes to complete.
Watch a time-lapse of the surgery

A close-up of the plastic lens that's implanted into the eye during a cataract operation.

Replacement

During the operation, the clouded lens is removed and a new artificial lens is implanted inside the eye.

A patient has his eyes examined by an eye specialist.

Recovery

Vision can start to return within a few hours of surgery.
Watch Rose's reaction after surgery

What we’re doing

We aim to make it easier for people to be treated for cataracts, especially in poorer areas of developing countries, where surgery is not always readily available.

We also want to improve the quality of cataract surgery and increase the number of operations that are able to be performed.

To achieve this, we’re working to strengthen community health programmes and increase the number of surgeons, nurses and community workers trained in eye health, as well as educating local people about the condition and explaining where to get treatment.

In 2016, Sightsavers supported more than 260,000 cataract operations around the world. Since our work began in 1950, we have supported 6.6 million cataract operations, and trained more than 1,000 surgeons to perform the operations.

We need your help to save the sight of people with cataracts. An eye examination to screen someone for a range of eye conditions costs less than a cup of coffee, and could be the first step towards restoring their vision.

Zamurrad holds a hand up to her eye, while both her and her daughter smile at the camera.

Zamurrad’s story

Zamurrad’s life ground to a halt when she developed cataracts, but a straightforward operation gave her back her independence.

Read her story

Help save someone’s sight

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More about cataracts

Surgical staff perform a cataract operation.
Sightsavers from the field

Watch cataract surgery condensed into one and a half minutes

During a recent trip to Bangladesh, we filmed a time-lapse video of a Sightsavers cataract operation taking place at Khulna BNSB hospital.

Staff from Makeni Hospital's eyecare team smile for the camera.
Sightsavers from the field

Meeting Sierra Leone’s miracle workers

In October 2017, Sightsavers staff visited Makeni Hospital in Sierra Leone to meet the amazing eye care workers your donations are helping to support.

All nine members of the Yadav family sit for a photo.
Sightsavers Reports

The Yadav family’s story

The family were in a unique position: eight out of nine had cataracts, and the children were struggling to get an education.

Learn about our work to save sight