WHAT IS A CATARACT?
A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear focusing lens of the eye. Cataract formation is common and considered a part of the normal aging process but cataracts can also be caused by conditions such as diabetes, ocular inflammation and trauma. When the lens becomes cloudy it interferes with vision and is referred to as a cataract. 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 CATARACT?
Cataracts can only be treated surgically. A cataract operation is indicated when one cannot function normally due to the decreased vision. This could mean difficulty with reading, driving or watching television. The operation is a microscopic surgical procedure that involves the removal of the cloudy lens and the implantation of a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL) in order to restore vision. This IOL is an artificial lens made of acrylic which is permanently placed inside the eye. Cataract surgery is a sophisticated, painless and comfortable procedure. The procedure does not need to be repeated and the cataracts cannot grow back. A light laser treatment called Yag laser is frequently required a few months or years down the line to keep the visual axis clear. This is done in the consulting room and also does not need to be repeated..
ANAESTHESIA, THE PROCEDURE
The goal of cataract surgery is to correct the decreased vision that was caused by the cataract. Cataract surgery is not painful. The eye is made numb with drops prior to surgery. We usually use conscious sedation which is a sophisticated anaesthetic technique administered by a specialist anaesthetist and gives maximum comfort and safety. Occasionally it may be appropriate to anaesthetise with a small local anaesthetic injection just beneath the eye. A general anaesthesic may also be used and can be requested by anxious patients. A tiny 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 technologically advanced form of cataract surgery – a microscopic technique called phacoemulsification – and the synthetic IOL is placed inside the eye. This procedure takes around 15 minutes to half an hour. A short visit to the consulting rooms is arranged for the next day and again in 1-2 weeks.
AFTER THE OPERATION
Your surgeon may use a pad or a shield to cover the eye after the operation, or the eye might be left open. You can remove your eye shield or pad when you get home after the operation. You should then start your eye drops. Please use the eye shield before going to sleep for the first night after the procedure. There are no restrictions on your visual activities. You may watch TV or read. You may shower and wash your hair but try to avoid water flowing into the eye for the first week. Do not swim for 2 weeks and try not to bump or rub the eye.
Mild irritation or scratchiness for the first 24 hours is typical but severe pain would be extremely unusual and should be reported immediately to your surgeon. Slight discomfort can be relieved with mild analgesics. Dark glasses will be useful when going outdoors while your eye is healing and you should bring a pair of dark glasses with for after the operation which you can use on the way home.