What is a cataract?
A cataract is a natural clouding of the lens. (Cataract actually means waterfall!). The lens focuses light onto the retina to produce an image, just like a camera lens. With age the lens becomes less pliable and cloudy. This causes images to become blurred causing difficulty with reading , watching TV and seeing in the distance eg; the number on a bus. You may notice glare at night especially when driving.
When do I need surgery ?
Cataract surgery should be considered when your quality of life is affected ie: when you have difficulty reading , driving or carrying out your hobbies. Just because your optician tells you, that you have a cataract, does not mean you have to have surgery , however cataracts do progress and the more advanced a cataract the higher the risk of complications from surgery. Also most patients are surprised at how poor their vision was, once they have had cataract surgery.
How is cataract surgery done ?
Modern day cataract surgery is known as ‘phacoemulsification’ or small incision cataract surgery. This is performed using a special ultrasound that dissolves the lens allowing a small incision and invariably no stitches. A small plastic implant is placed where your natural lens was. There are a variety of implants available and new implants are being developed all the time. You can discuss which implant is most suitable for your requirements with your surgeon.
Most patients have a local anaesthetic and can go home soon after the procedure. I personally perfom topical anaesthesia, which is the application of drops only. I do not use sharp needle anaesthesia.This is much more comfortable and reduces the risk involved using needles, namely globe perforation and bleeding.
What would happen if I decide to have cataract surgery ?
You would be given a date for surgery and will usually have this done as a day case under local anaesthetic. Before having surgery you will be measured for the lens implant. You will be given information on how to prepare for your surgery.
On admission you will have drops put in the eye to dilate the pupil. Later on you will be taken to the anaesthetic room where drops will be instilled, or occasionally an anaesthetist will perform an injection. Once the anaesthetic has taken effect you will then be taken to theatre where the operation will take 10 – 15 mins. You will then be taken back to the ward for a drink and something to eat. Usually you can go home after an hour or so.
The whole process lasts approximately 3 – 4 hours.
If you would like to consider private cataract surgery and the benefit that private care offers please click on ‘private eye care’
What happens after surgery ?
You will be asked to put drops in your eye to help the eye heal. This is done for 4 weeks. Your first post operative visit is usually 3-4 weeks. Following this you will be able to see your optician for an eye test, at about 6 weeks, and discussion as to whether you need new glases or whether it is advised to have the other cataract done.