CATARACT: UNDERSTANDING AND TREATMENT
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's naturally clear lens. This clouding generally occurs gradually over several years, though sometimes it may occur more rapidly.
What causes cataracts?
Most cataracts are caused by the natural changes that take place in the eye as we age. Age-related cataracts usually occur after sixty years of age; however, they can occur as early as thirty years of age. Cataracts can also be caused by trauma to the eye, medications, ultraviolet light and some forms or radiation. Some babies can be born with cataracts.
What are the symptoms?
The common symptoms of a cataract are: blurred or hazy vision, glare, light sensitivity, change in color perception, even double vision. Occasionally, cataracts may lead to frequent changes in your glasses prescription. Eventually, though, even a change in your glasses will not improve your vision.
How are cataracts treated?
A short surgical procedure is required to remove cataracts. This is conducted during a visit to a day care surgery centre. No overnight stay is required. The procedure takes about 10 to 15 minutes per eye and will be done in two separate sessions.
An anesthetist numbs the eye, usually with drops. A small incision is made in the cornea, near where the sclera (white part) of the eye meets the iris (coloured part). Another opening is made in the membrane that surrounds the natural lens. Using an ultrasound instrument, the clouded lens is dissolved and removed through this tiny incision. A lens implant is then inserted through the same opening and in most cases, placed in the same location as your natural lens (inside the lens membrane). Stitches are rarely required.
After the procedure has been performed, a clear plastic shield is placed in front of the eye for protection. It is left in place until the following day when it will be removed in the doctor's office. You will have a simple sheet of instructions to follow regarding the use of eye drops before and after the operation.
When should cataracts be treated?
The appropriate time to have a cataract treated is a decision you should make with the advice and counseling of your doctor. When a cataract causes loss of sight and interferes with daily activities or lifestyle it is probably time to have it removed.
Is cataract surgery always successful?
As with any surgical procedure, success is never 100% guaranteed. Fortunately, however, cataract surgery is highly successful. Complications are rare and, when they do occur, can usually be treated.
Following your instructions will help make your surgery a success.
When are lasers used?
Although lasers may be used for the treatment of many eye conditions, currently they are not used to treat cataracts. A laser may be used after cataract surgery if secondary clouding of the membrane occurs. The laser makes an opening in the membrane and creates a clear line of sight. It is a quick and painless procedure that can be performed in the doctor's office.
What should I know about lens implants?
Cataract surgery involves the removal of your own natural lens, which has become clouded, and its replacement with a clear lens implant. This lens implant is expected to last a lifetime.