What is a cataract?
A cataract develops when the natural lens inside the eye becomes cloudy. It commonly develops in people over the age of 55 years and is considered a normal part of the aging process. Rarely some people can be born with cataracts or develop them before that age. Many patients who develop cataracts have otherwise healthy eyes and removing the cataract will restore their previously good vision.
How do I know if I have a cataract?
Patients with cataracts usually find that their vision gradually becomes cloudy and blurred. They may also find that they experience glare when they are outside or looking at car headlights, which makes it difficult to see properly. Occasionally patients complain of seeing multiple images. Sometimes patients find that they need to change their glasses frequently. Cataracts are not painful.
The only effective treatment for cataracts is to operate to remove them. The latest technique for removing a cataract is called phacoemulsification surgery.
What does cataract surgery involve?
Modern cataract surgery is performed through a very small micro-incision, which usually does not require stitches at the end of the procedure. The incisions made in the eye seal themselves and heal completely within a few weeks, allowing normal activities to be resumed quickly after the surgery.
After making the incision, a small round opening is created in the lens capsule, which surrounds the cataract. An instrument called a phacoemulsification tip is then introduced into the eye and this uses high-speed ultrasound waves to break the cataract into small pieces, which can then be easily sucked out of the eye.
When the entire cataract has been removed, a lens implant (intraocular lens) is placed within the lens capsule to allow the eye to focus. Lens implants are very small and are made of highly durable materials that do not degrade over time within the eye, so do not need to be replaced.
Lens implants come in different powers and a lens is selected that best suits each individual patient. Additionally there are different types of lenses, such as multifocal lenses and accommodative lenses which can give greater freedom from glasses after the surgery. Not all lenses are suitable for all patients and your doctor will discuss the choice of lens with you before the surgery to ensure you receive the lens most suited to your needs.
Some patients may have astigmatism before their surgery, which can sometimes be reduced at the time of the operation with small incisions in the cornea.
What sort of anaesthesia can I have for my surgery?
It is possible to have cataract surgery with a local anaesthetic (topical or regional anaesthesia) or a general anaesthetic.
- Topical anaesthesia: This is a very popular method for surgery, which simply uses drops to numb the eye. Many patients prefer this method as