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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

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

More about cataracts

Anwar, who has a prosthetic leg, running alongside other people with disabilities.
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A round-up of the latest work that your donations help to support. Featuring news from India, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda and Nigeria.

The operating theatre during cataract surgery,
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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.
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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.