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Cataract Surgery

Over half the people over the age of 65 have some degree of cataract development and most cases can be treated with cataract eye surgery. So, if you’re alarmed because your doctor told you that you have a cataract, don’t be. A cataract is a clouding of a part of your eye called the lens.

Your vision becomes blurry because light cannot pass through the clouded lens to the back of the eye. Cataracts can develop over periods ranging from a few months to many years. Sometimes the cataract stops developing in its early stages and vision is only slightly impaired. But if it continues to develop, it will interfere with vision.

The amount and pattern of cloudiness within the lens can vary. If the cloudiness is not near the centre of the lens, you may not be aware that a cataract is present.

Cataracts

Common cataract symptoms:

  • A painless blurring of your vision
  • Glare or light sensitivity
  • Frequent spectacle prescription changes
  • Double vision in one eye
  • Needing brighter light to read
  • Poor night vision
  • Fading or yellowing of colours
Misconceptions about cataracts

It is not a growth or film over the eye

It is not caused by overusing the eyes

It is not a cancer, tumor or infection

It is not spread from one eye to the other

It is not a cause of irreversible blindness

What Causes Cataracts to Develop?

Cataracts will usually develop as part of the aging process, but can also result from:

Eye injuries
Certain chronic diseases such as diabetes
Medications
Genetic inheritance
Long-term, unprotected exposure to sunlight
Previous eye surgery

How are Cataracts Diagnosed?

A thorough eye examination with an instrument called a slit lamp can detect the presence and extent of a cataract, as well as any other conditions that may be causing blurred vision or discomfort. This can be performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.

How can Cataracts be Treated?

The cataract may need no treatment at all if the vision is only a little blurry. A change in your prescription may improve vision for a while.

There are no medications, eye drops, exercises or glasses that will cause cataracts to disappear once they have formed. When you are not able to see well enough to do the things you like to do, cataract surgery should be considered. Surgery is the only way to remove a cataract.

When Should Cataract Surgery be Done?

Cataract surgery should be considered when cataracts cause enough loss of vision to interfere with your daily activities. It is not true that cataracts need to be ‘ripe’ before they can be removed. Surgery can be performed when your visual needs require it. You must decide if you can see well enough to do your job and drive safely and if you can read and watch television in comfort.

Also, ask yourself if you can perform daily tasks, such as cooking, shopping, or taking medications without difficulty.

Cataract Surgery Procedure

Surgery on a catatract eye is done under topical anaesthetic, which makes the operation almost painless. The surgeon uses only eye drops to numb the eye completely, no injection or general anaesthesia is necessary.

The procedure used for cataract extraction is micro-incision phaco-emulsification, which involves a sub-2.2mm incision in the side of the cornea, through which the surgeon applies a tiny, high frequency ultrasound instrument. High energy sound waves break up the center of the lens into microscopic particles, which are then gently suctioned out through the incision.

Once cataracts extraction has been successful (after the cloudy lens has been removed), a replacement silicon or alternative intra-ocular lens (IOL) implant, through the 2.2mm incision is added. This new lens allows light to pass through and focus clearly on the retina. The IOL becomes a permanent part of your eye. There are many different IOL’s available to address your specific needs, for e.g. Multifocal IOL’s, Toric IOL’s and Accommodative IOL’s. The surgeon will determine which type of IOL is best suited to your needs. After using this special small incision, you will not receive any stitches.

Surgery does not require an overnight stay in hospital. You will be given eye drops to use for 6 weeks after the operation to prevent infection and reduce swelling of the cornea.

Complications can occur during and after the surgery and as with any surgery, a good result cannot be guaranteed. Infection, bleeding and swelling or detatchment of the retina are some of the more serious complications that may affect your vision, but these are rare. Many patients report immediate improvement in their vision and most return to their normal work and lifestyle routines within a day or two.

What to Expect Long-Term

In some cases, the posterior capsule that supports the IOL becomes cloudy several months or years after the initial cataract removal. This is called “after cataract” or Capsular Sclerosis. If this occurs and blurs your vision, this will be corrected with the Yag laser which is painless and takes about 15 minutes.

Most people who wear bifocals or reading glasses for near vision before cataract surgery will still need to wear glasses after surgery.

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