Complications of Diabetes


What is a cataract?

A cataract is a cloudy opacification of the lens of the eye and interferes with your vision, rather like having grime on the windscreen of your car.

What causes it?

The lens of the eye is made of fluid containing protein. This can start to cloud over for various reasons. Cataract is more common with increasing age though it is seen at all ages, even in the newborn.

What are the symptoms?

In the early stages you may not notice any effect on your vision and it may come as a surprise that you have the beginnings of a cataract. You may notice your sight is a little hazy and have difficulty with bright sunlight or the headlights of oncoming cars at night which can appear very bright. Colours may appear somewhat washed out. Reading becomes increasingly difficult.

What is the treatment?

The treatment of Cataract has advanced greatly in recent times. Surgery is the method of choice and your lens is removed and replaced with an artificial one. Cataract surgery is usually very successful and is probably the most commonly performed surgical procedure. The discovery of a cataract does not always indicate that you need surgery. This will be decided by your Ophthalmologist. You will undergo regular tests of vision once detected so that the optimal timing of surgery can be judged.

What is the law in relation to driving?

Includes severe bilateral cataracts, failed bilateral cataract extraction and post cataract surgery.

Group 1 entitlement - must be able to meet the 'number plate' requirement (between 6/9 and 6/12 on the Snellen Chart)

Group 2 entitlement - New applicants are barred in law if the visual acuity, using corrective lenses if necessary, is worse than 6/9 in the better eye or 6/12 in the other eye, or the uncorrected acuity in either eye is worse than 3/60.

Where can I get further information?

The Royal College of Ophthalmologists has an excellent information page on Cataracts at


Dr Nishan Wijenaike, Consultant Physician
West Suffolk Hospital Diabetes Service
October 2002