WHAT IS A CATARACT?

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear focusing lens of the eye. When the lens becomes cloudy it interferes with vision and is then referred to as a cataract. Cataract formation is extremely common and is considered a part of the normal aging process although cataracts can also be caused by conditions such as diabetes, ocular inflammation and trauma. Depending on the size, thickness and type of cataract, one may notice a decrease in distance and/or near vision. One may also notice glare and halos around lights, as well as ghosting of images. Sight may become dim, hazy or cloudy and colours may appear dull.

WHAT IS THE TREATMENT FOR A CATARACT?

A cataract is treated through a sophisticated, painless and comfortable surgical procedure which is indicated when one cannot function normally due to the decrease in vision. This reduced vision could mean difficulty with reading, driving or watching television.

Cataract surgery is quick and painless. The eye is made numb with drops prior to surgery and a sophisticated anaesthetic technique known as conscious sedation is used by a specialist anaesthetist to maximise patient comfort during the operation. A general anaesthetic may occasionally be used and is sometimes requested by very anxious patients.

Once the eye is numb, a small incision is made in the periphery of the cornea. This is usually self-sealing but occasionally may require closure with a very fine stitch. The natural lens is then removed by a microscopic technique known phacoemulsification and the synthetic intraocular lens is placed permanently inside the eye. The procedure does not need to be repeated and cataracts cannot grow back. This entire process takes around half an hour. A short post-operative visit to the consulting rooms is arranged for the next day.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE OPERATION?

Recovery is rapid with most people returning to work or typical day to day life after just a few days. Mild irritation, scratchiness and blurred vision is expected in the first 24 hours. Drops are used for 3 to 4 weeks to aid the healing process and a trip to the optometrist after a month is usually recommended. If surgery is needed for the fellow eye, this would usually take place the following week. Several months or years after the operation, a clear membrane behind the lens implant often becomes cloudy and a laser treatment called Yag laser is done to keep the visual axis clear. This only takes a few minutes, is done in the consulting rooms and does not need to be repeated.