A patient receiving an eye test.

We’re committed to funding research to help understand the causes of cataracts and to find new effective treatments, because we believe that people’s sight matters.

A cataract is when the eye’s lens becomes cloudy over time, causing a gradual blurring of vision. Most cataracts are age-related, though they can occur at any age as a result of genetic factors or causes related to lifestyle or other conditions.

1 in 3

Approx. number of people over 65 who will experience at least 1 cataract in the UK

What is the lens?

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The lens sits behind the iris, the coloured part of the eye, and the pupil. It helps to focus rays of light onto the back of the eye (the retina) from which the brain can form a picture of our environment.

When a cataract develops, the lens becomes foggy, which makes it more difficult for the light rays to reach the retina. This means that the picture the retina develops is less clear. It can be like looking through a misted window.

Causes of cataracts

Most cataracts are related to the normal ageing process, although other types of cataracts are caused by different factors, like the use of steroids or past injuries to the eye. Having diabetes also puts you at an elevated risk of developing a cataract.

Though it’s less common, some cataracts are congenital (present at birth) or develop during childhood. Research into the genetic causes of congenital cataracts is ongoing, with the aim that childhood cataracts can be better understood and more effectively treated in the future. 

Symptoms and treatment for cataracts

Not all people who develop a cataract require treatment, as it can have a minimal impact on eyesight. However, cataracts can lead to blurry vision and sometimes cause glare and trouble coping with bright lights. If left untreated, cataracts can result in blindness. 

Surgery to remove the cataract is currently the only treatment option available. During standard cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is replaced with a clear artificial lens. This is a relatively low-risk procedure and is frequently carried-out. It’s the most common elective surgery in the UK. 

Between September 2020 and April 2021, Moorfields sites carried out multiple cataract drives in order to continue to deliver vital cataract surgeries during the pandemic.


Cataract operations done at Moorfields sites in drives between September 2020 and April 2021.

Investing in cataract treatment and research

To support the training of the next generation of surgeons in cataract operations, we purchased a new state-of-the-art surgical simulator for Moorfields Eye Hospital. This was the result of generous support for our 2019 summer appeal.

By helping to fund equipment, we also supported a clinical trial exploring treatment options for cataracts. This trial examined the effectiveness of laser-assisted surgery when compared to standard surgery.

It is important to increase our understanding of how cataracts develop, especially in children. We have supported a number of projects including work aimed at identifying the genes involved and visual development following cataract surgery in children. 

You can read more about some of our funded projects below.

Recent progress