A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye which causes vision to deteriorate. The majority of cataracts are related to age and are very common in older people. It is a natural part of the aging process. Age related cataract can occur in middle age but most cataracts are small and do not affect vision. If is normally after age of 60 that cataracts can cause vision to deteriorate.
Although most cataracts are age related there are other types of cataract such as secondary cataract which can form after surgery for other eye problems; traumatic cataract which can develop after an eye injury; congenital cataract which occurs in babies at birth or develop in childhood and radiation cataract which develops after exposure to some types of radiation.
Other risk factors for cataracts can include diseases like diabetes; smoking and alcohol use; prolonged exposure to sunlight.
Symptoms of a cataract are:
- Cloudy or blurred vision
- Poor night vision
- Double vision
- Colors seem to be faded
Once cataracts have been detected through comprehensive eye examinations and if determined that the cataracts are affecting your vision the cataracts will be removed by surgery. A cataract will not be removed if it does not cause problems with your vision and you may not need surgery for several years.
Cataract surgery is the removal of the cloudy lens in your eye and replacing it with a clear artificial implant. There are two types of cataract surgery and one of our specialist consultants will assess you and explain the differences to help determine which is the best type of surgery for your individual needs.
The most common cataract surgery is phacoemulsification (phaco) and is usually done as a day procedure under local anesthetic. Before the operation eye drops are given to dilate your pupil as this makes it easier for the surgeon to see the lens inside your eye. A small incision is made on the side of the cornea and the surgeon will use ultrasound energy to soften and break up the cloudy lens so it can be removed by suction. The second type of cataract surgery is extracapsular surgery where a longer incision is made on the side of the cornea and the cloudy core of the lens is removed in one piece. After the cloudy lens has been removed it is replaced by an artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL). The right type of IOL will be determined using tests to measure the curve of your cornea and the shape and size of your eye. You will not see or be able to feel the new lens.
The operation usually last less than one hour and is virtually painless. After surgery your eye may be covered with a protective pad and it is normal to have itching, mild discomfort and blurry vision for a few days. These symptoms will settle within 10 to 14 days. Healing will be complete within eight weeks and your consultant will schedule follow up consultations to monitor your progress.
Cataract surgery is a safe operation and is carried out more than any other surgical eye procedure. Problems are rare but as with any surgery risks are carried. Possible complications can include infection, bleeding, inflammation, loss of vision, double vision and lens dislocation. These complications can be treated successfully with prompt attention. Your surgeon will explain in more detail how any risks apply to you.