What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the part of your eye called the lens. A cataract is not a growth or a film over the eye. It is very common and is usually caused by the simple process of getting older. Almost everyone over the age of 60 years has some degree of cataract formation in one or both of their eyes. Eye injuries, diabetes, or other diseases and certain medications can contribute to their formation.
Cataract Treament & Cataract Surgery - Removing the Cloud
The only cure for cataracts is surgery. Modern cataract surgery is one of the most effective procedures performed today. Cataract surgery is precise. It is performed by a skilled surgeon with the aid of a microscope and specifically designed instruments. Modern microsurgery permits delicate procedures to be accomplished without the patient experiencing long inactive periods as was the case in the past.
The patient is seen by an anaesthetist before the operation who will take a medical history and perform physical examination. Today, general anaesthetic is rarely used for cataract surgery. Local anaesthetic, peribulbar block or topical anaesthetic (i.e. anaesthetic drops) and sedation are used. This makes the operation safer for elderly patients. Blood pressure, respiration, pulse and heart rates are all monitored.
When the clouded lens is removed light will again freely enter the eye. However, the eye cannot focus the light without a device taking the place of the natural lens. Today the most common way to restore vision after cataract surgery is by implanting an Intra-Ocular Lens (IOL), i.e. a small plastic lens surgically placed inside the eye to replace the natural lens. The implant will remain a permanent part of the eye and will not require any special treatment or care on the patient’s part.
During the recovery period, which takes approximately 3 weeks, review will be undertaken by the surgeon and the eye will be measured for new glasses. Ongoing review will be at six months, followed by yearly reviews to ensure glasses are accurate and the eyes are healthy. Up-to-date reports on progress will be sent to local doctor and optometrist.
Prior to operation the eye needs to be measured (A-scan) to determine the exact power of the IOL implant required to focus light for your eye.
FAQ's About Cataracts
- What is a cataract?
- A cataract is a clouding of the part of your eye called the lens. A cataract is not a growth or a film over the eye. It is very common and is usually caused by the simple process of getting older. Almost everyone over the age of 60 years has some degree of cataract formation in one or both of their eyes. Eye injuries, diabetes, or other diseases and certain medications can contribute to their formation.
- How do people know when they have a cataract?
- The most common symptom is blurred vision. As the cataract develops, the progressive clouding can make night driving difficult by intensifying the reflection of lights. Symptoms differ from one person to the next. It depends on the type of cataract and how far it has progressed.
- How will I know if I need surgery?
- In most cases cataract surgery is required only when your vision requirements interferes with your work or the things you like to do, e.g. If you are a golfer you may be having trouble following the ball.
If the cataract is the only problem affecting the eye, modern surgical procedures can improve vision in 95% of cases. It is important for you to understand that no surgical procedure is perfect, and occasionally complications can occur. These are relatively rare, and can usually be corrected.
- When is the best time to have cataract surgery?
- In most cases you are the best judge of when it is time to have your cataract removed. Your decision should be based on your standard for a full life -
- If you can no longer pass vision tests to maintain your driver's licence
- If your job requires detailed work, your choice of timing may be dictated by your career needs
- If you simply cannot do the things you would like to keep doing, you might decide that the time is right
There are a few cases in which cataract surgery should be done immediately, e.g. if the eye is acutely inflamed or there is a serious threat of glaucoma.
In the early days when surgical techniques were less refined, it was common to wait until the cataracts were far advanced. Today, however, eye surgeons are highly trained and modem surgical equipment permits safe operations at much earlier stages.
- How will I feel, and how will my eye feel during the post-operative period of healing?
- Even though you have had a delicate microsurgical operation, you should have an easy post-operative period of healing. You should feel as well as you did before surgery. In the majority of cases, you will not have your eye padded. Most patients have an intermittent scratchy feeling for a week or so. This is due to the tiny incision. A slight headache over the operated eye is also very common. Any non-Asprin pain relief, e.g. Panadol, should provide relief. Should you experience severe pain, please call the surgery.
Household chores which involve straining or lifting, gardening, as well as sporting activities, should be limited during the initial healing period. Read or watch TV as much as you wish.
Drops should be used faithfully until the bottles are finished.
Your hair cannot be washed for a week after surgery and care must be taken with water near your eye.
- Should I use my present glasses?
- Because your lens implant is now doing most of the focusing for your eye, your present glasses may be stronger than you need. However it is perfectly safe to continue wearing them during the healing period.
- Will I need to get new glasses?
- When your eye has fully healed, you will be measured to see if you will need glasses. While your new lens implant provides almost all the focussing necessary for distance, frequently a weaker pair of glasses will help to "fine tune" distance or near focus which will provide you with the best vision possible. Most patients will be ready to be measured for new glasses 4 to 6 weeks after surgery.
- Can I have any other treatment for cataract?
- Diet, medicine, eye drops or exercise have not been shown to retard or prevent the development of cataracts. A cataract does not result from using the eyes too much, or by reading in bad light.
- How soon will my vision improve?
- The important thing is not how well you see on the morning after surgery, but how well you see when your eye is fully healed. With the clear lens implant you will probably notice that daylight is a little brighter than it was before surgery. Use sunglasses as you wish, but remember you don’t have to wear them! They are for comfort only.
- What is my new implant like?
- It is a foldable, plastic implant, with an ultra-violet filter, that has a focussing power specifically chosen for your eye.
- How long will it take for my eye to heal?
- Generally the eye will heal in about 3 weeks. You will be scheduled for a follow up appointment betwen 4 to 6 weeks after the surgery, so that your surgeon can check that your eye has healed fully.
- What special treatment does my eye require while healing?
- Use drops as directed. Wear protective sunglasses whenever you are outside on sunny days if the glare causes discomfort. Avoid direct pressure on the eye – don’t rub or scratch the eye.
- How do I use my eye drops?
- Please follow the instructions below
- Lie back in a comfortable chair or bed with your head supported, face upwards
- Keep both eyes open, looking at the ceiling
- Pull the lower lid down gently with your fingertips
- Squeeze the bottle, allowing the drop to fall inside the lower lid
- Be careful not to touch the tip of the bottle to your eye
- Leave 5 minutes between applications
- How are cataracts treated?
The only available treatment for cataract is surgery which removes the cataract from your eye, and replaces it with a clear man-made lens to improve the vision.