"Cataract" means an opacity of the lens and it is the commonest potentially blinding condition that confronts the eye surgeon. This is not to say that every person with cataract is liable to go blind. Many patients have relatively slight lens opacities that progress slowly. Fortunately, the results of surgery are good, a satisfactory improvement of vision being obtained in over 90% of cases. It is usually possible to forewarn the patients when there is an extra element of doubt about the outcome. To the uninformed patient, the word "cataract" strikes a note of fear and it might be necessary to explain that opacities in the lens are extremely common in elderly people. It is only when the opaque lens fibres begin to interfere with the vision that the term "cataract" is used. Many patients have a slight degree of cataract, which advances so slowly that they die before any visual problems arise. Nobody need now go blind from cataract; however, one still encounters elderly people who, from ignorance or neglect, are left immobilised by this form of blindness, and it is especially important that the general practitioner is able to recognise the condition.
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