What is a cataract?
The eye condition which gradually causes the lens, the structure behind the coloured part of our eye (the iris), to lose its transparency is called a cataract. The opacity of the lens does not allow light rays to pass through and reach the retina; in addition, it affects the quality of the light rays. Since less and poorer quality light stimuli reach the retina, the layer at the back of our eye, a blurred image of what we see is created by our brain.
Why should you have cataract surgery?
- Nearly all patients who have cataract surgery experience an improvement in their vision.
- Cataract surgery is a refractive procedure, it is thus possible to improve other pre-existing refractive conditions, such as astigmatism, short-sightedness or long-sightedness.
- If you opt for a multi-focal lens, you can improve both near and distance vision, greatly reducing or even eliminating the need for glasses.
- Removal of a significant cataract leads not only to better vision but also to a better quality of life.
When should you have cataract surgery?
Surgery is the only available option to improve your vision once a cataract has developed. It is a myth that you have to wait for the cataract to become ‘ripe’ or reach an advanced stage. On the contrary, it is advisable to have surgery when cataracts are in their earlier stages as the surgery is safer. However, it is not necessary to have surgery if you feel that your eyesight is not affected.
If you are a driver, you should keep an eye on your vision. You should be able to see the standard number plate of a car 20 metres away from you; this is important for safety but also a legal requirement. Aris will consult you about the right time to undergo cataract surgery.
Is it a safe procedure?
Yes. It is one of the most common and safest procedures in the UK and around the world. It is a relatively simple operation that only lasts a maximum of 30 minutes.
As with any surgery there is the possibility that something might deviate from the original plan, but according to The National Ophthalmology Database Audit less than 1 in a 100 (0.51%) patients who have had cataract surgery have experienced some loss of vision.
Is it a painful procedure?
No. A local anaesthetic is applied before the surgery starts. This means that you are awake during the procedure, but feel no pain. You might experience some pressure sensation in the eye area but it is not sharpness or pain.
It should be noted that local anaesthesia is preferred to general anaesthesia. With local anaesthesia you will be in and out of the hospital much quicker; in addition you avoid the potential side effects of general anaesthesia some of which can be fatal.
What happens during cataract surgery?
Local anaesthesia and antiseptic drops are applied. Anaesthesia is applied, either as an injection around the eye or more commonly as eye drops.
A small entry (incision) is made to the eye. It is usually less than 3mm in width.
An instrument as small as the tip of a pen is inserted into the incision.
The instrument breaks up the cataract. Then, all the tiny pieces are removed from the eye through the same instrument.
Once all the broken down cataract fragments are extracted, the new replacement lens (known as IOL) is carefully inserted through the initial incision.
The IOL takes its place, right where the natural lens used to be.
In most cases there is no need for stitches.
What happens after the surgery?
Once you have had your surgery and feel comfortable and happy, you can go home. The team will give you instructions on how to take care of your eyes and what medication you will need.
The first two days, your eye may be slightly scratchy, but you will not be in pain. You will be sensitive to light, and your vision may be blurry.
For the first week, you should not get your eye wet. You will also have to use eye drops for one month.
If you would like to learn more about cataracts, you can find more information on our cataract pages. If you are interested in booking an appointment, you could complete the form on our contact page. You could also call 02381 812281.