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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
316,000
cataract operations were supported by Sightsavers in 2017
$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 2017, Sightsavers supported more than 316,000 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

You can help save someone’s sight

I would like to make a donation

Could pay for a life-changing adult cataract operation.

Could pay for a cataract operation for a child.

Could pay for two child cataract operations.

$
We're sorry, but the minimum donation we can take is $3
We're sorry, but we cannot process a donation of this size online. Please contact us on [email protected] for assistance donating over $15,000

Could pay for a sight-saving cataract operation for an adult.

Could pay towards a cataract operation for a child.

Could pay for a cataract operation for a child.

$
We're sorry, but the minimum donation we can take is $3
We're sorry, but we cannot process a donation of this size online. Please contact us on [email protected] for assistance donating over $15,000

Help save someone’s sight

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More about cataracts

The operating theatre during cataract surgery,
sightsavers_news

Sightsavers and partners launch app to improve cataract operations

The BOOST app, which stands for Better Operative Outcomes Software Tool, helps surgeons monitor their operations so they can improve their results.

An elderly woman in Uganda has her eyes examined to check for trachoma.
sightsavers_news

Free eye examinations launched for older people in Uganda

People aged over 65 can now have a free eye examination while collecting their pension, and can then be referred for treatment for conditions such as cataracts or blinding trachoma.

NTD coordinators in Nigeria receive the keys to their new motorbikes from the Director of Public Health.
Sightsavers from the field

April highlights: updates from around the world

An update from Nigeria, where Sightsavers has donated new motorbikes to a group of NTD workers. Plus news from Guinea, Cameroon and Mozambique.

Learn about our work to save sight