A cataract is an opacity (cloudiness) of the lens inside the eye. This cloudiness develops over a period of time, usually with age, as the protein structure of the lens deteriorates. Less commonly it can occur congenitally or develop very quickly.
Cataracts are a normal part of the ageing process. They mainly occur in people over the age of 60.
Other risk factors that may speed up the development of a cataract include:
- Ultraviolet exposure
- Certain medications (e.g. Prednisone)
- Genetic (run in families).
- Trauma to the eye
Skilful microsurgical techniques using ultrasound can surgically remove the lens and replace it with an optically advanced artificial lens, which improves the focus.
What symptoms does a cataract cause?
As the cataract progresses, the following may occur:
- Blurred vision (at distance, near or both). Often patients will notice that their glasses no longer work.
- Hazy or cloudy vision
- Faded colours
- Poor night vision
- Sensitivity to light and glare
How is a cataract treated?
Surgery is required to remove the lens and replace it with an artificial lens, which restores vision (in an otherwise healthy eye). Modern cataract surgeries, known as phacoemulsification, involves making a tiny incision and using high pitched ultrasound vibrations to break up the cataract into smaller pieces. The surgeon then removes these from the eye and inserts a folded artificial lens through the same incision, carefully positioning it in the correct location.
The incision is so small that stitches are not required and the wound itself self seals. The surgery is a day procedure and is performed under local anaesthesia with sedation. Most people can go home within 2 hours after the surgery has been performed.
Post-surgery patients are required to administer antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drops over a 1 month period to prevent infection and reduce swelling inside the eye. Patients will have regular follow-up appointments over the next month with their ophthalmologist.
What are the different types of artificial lenses?
There is a wide variety of artificial lenses available, enabling the ophthalmologist to best customise surgery for you to try to correct any long-standing refractive errors (e.g. short-sightedness, long-sightedness, astigmatism). The ophthalmologist will select a lens based on the health of your eyes and how you use your vision.
Are there any risks of surgery?
Over 99% of cataract surgeries are successfully completed without surgical complications and the overwhelming majority of patients are happy with the result of their surgery.
Although rarely, serious complications can occur, the majority of complications are minor and may mean some changes to your postoperative treatment or a delay in your recovery.
Download this information: Cataract (pdf) or contact our cataracts specialists on the Gold Coast.