Cataracts occur when the lens in the eyes become cloudy, either completely or partially. Cataracts occur most commonly due to age, inflammation, or steroid use.
When the lens becomes cloudy, you may notice your vision is more hazy and that you notice glare from bright lights. You may also notice your optometrist tells you your glasses prescription may change more than usual.
Treatment for cataracts is usually a simple cataract surgery, which is often performed as a day-case procedure with a local anaesthetic.
During cataract surgery, the surgeon will remove the natural lens inside the eye and replace it with an artificial lens that is calculated specifically for your eye.
Cataract surgery is a routine, straightforward surgical procedure that typically lasts between 30 to 45 minutes. Patients who undergo cataract surgery can go home on the same day of the surgery.
A six to 12 weeks gap is usually left between the two eyes being operated on, when this is necessary.
Prior to undergoing cataract surgery, the patient will need to be referred to a specialist eye surgeon to undergo an eye assessment to determine the measurements of the eyes (biometry). Patients may require ultrasound scans to confirm specific dimensions of the eye and it is very common to obtain an OCT scan to make sure the retina is healthy prior to surgery.
There are many benefits of undergoing cataract surgery, with the main ones including:
- improving vision
- reducing glare
- improved colour saturation
- reduced dependence on glassses
The main risks of cataract surgery are as follows:
- 1 in 1000 risk of permanent visual loss as a result of infection or retinal detachment
- 1 in 100 risk of requiring more than one procedure, but ultimately having a good visual outcome.
- 1 in 10 risk of requiring a quick and easy procedure called a YAG capsulotomy to 'polish' the lens 6-12 months after the surgery.
Most lenses are monofocal. This means that patients are left with good vision at a specific distance. Usually patients request to have distance vision either with no glasses, or just a weak prescription. They will require reading glasses in order to read a book or see their phones.
Occasionally, patients who are short sighted (myopic), request to be left short sighted. This means that they will be able to read without glasses after surgery, but will need glasses to see in the distance.
Patients who have significant astigmatism may benefit from a toric lens, which reduces astigmatism and makes glasses prescriptions more simple. This can be discussed during your consultation.
Ophthalmologists are responsible for performing cataract surgery.