A cataract is a cloudy area of the normally clear lens of the eye, which can interfere with vision by diffusing light as it passes through the eye.

To some degree, cataracts can't be avoided as we get older. Around half of Australians will have some degree of cataract by the age of 70 years.

Cataract symptoms can include:

  • cloudy or foggy vision
  • blurry or distorted vision
  • changes in colour vision
  • frequent increases in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions
  • poor night vision (especially affected by headlights)
  • progressive loss of vision
  • halos or glare around lights
  • double vision
  • loss of contrast
  • a white or ‘milky’ spot over the pupil of the eye


Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye diseases that leads to the slow destruction of the optic nerve at the back of the eye, which then causes vision loss.

Approximately 300,000 Australians have glaucoma. Generally there are no symptoms or warning signs in the early stages of this eye condition. Glaucoma is referred to as the ‘sneak thief of sight’ because most people don’t experience symptoms until it is very advanced. That’s why 50% of people with glaucoma in Australia are undiagnosed.

Glaucoma damage progresses very slowly and destroys vision gradually, starting with side vision. The damage is both irreversible and progressive. The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to have your eyes tested.

Retinal disease

There are a variety of conditions that can affect the vitreous and retina. These retinal diseases often occur in the back of the eye and are not easily visible, making them more difficult to treat until it’s too late and the damage is irreversible.

You should always visit your optometrist when you notice any change in vision. If you know you are at risk of retinal disease, you should get regularly tested to maintain optimal vision for as long as possible.

Some of the main retinal diseases we see in our patients are:

  • Diabetic retinopathy - this occurs when the blood vessels in the retina change, affecting central vision
  • Macular degeneration - this causes damage to the macula which also affects central vision. It is the most common cause of blindness and vision loss in Australia
  • Retinal detachments or tears - if the retina is detached from its normal position, it can cause permanent vision loss
  • Macular holes - macular holes can cause blurred or distorted central vision
  • Flashes and floaters - vitreous floaters can be a symptom of a detached retina, which requires laser treatment or surgery
  • Retinitis pigmentosa - this is a group of diseases that causes retinal degeneration and a gradual decline in vision

Corneal disease

The cornea is the clear window at the front of the eye. A transparent cornea is vital to allow light to reach the retina. The cornea also provides the major refractive power of the eye for the focusing of images on the retina.

Corneal disease is a serious condition that can cause clouding, distortion, scarring and eventually blindness.

There are many types of corneal disease. The three major types are keratoconus, Fuchs' endothelial dystrophy and bullous keratopathy.

Eye injuries (eye trauma)

Injuries can also cause eye problems. Doctors use the word trauma to describe injuries like scratches, cuts, stabs, and blows. Almost any part of the eye can be injured by trauma. Corneal scratches are one example of trauma. Another example is black eye which occurs when the area around the eye is bumped or hit and becomes bluish black for a few days. If hit hard enough, the bones of the eye socket can be broken. A piece of flying rock, wood, or metal might even go deep into the eye. These are all types of eye trauma.

Serious trauma can occur when a harmful chemical accidentally contacts the eye. Many household cleaning fluids, sprays, and powders are strong enough to cause damage if they are splashed, sprayed, or rubbed into the eye. Chemical trauma is a medical emergency. Unless the chemical is removed quickly, the eye may become permanently damaged or even blinded.

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