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  • Cataract surgery is the most common and successful surgical procedure in the world

Cataract is a common eye condition affecting patients of any age, but more commonly over 65 years of age. Cataracts are where the lens within the eye, which allows you to focus, gradually over time loses clarity and becomes cloudy. It’s a bit like looking through a dirty window or a frosted bathroom window in extreme cases.

Cataracts are increasingly common and are one of the main causes of blindness worldwide. Don’t be frightened about this. The treatment is relatively straightforward and if successful will restore your vision back to the vision you once had if the remainder of the eye remains healthy.

Why have you got cataracts?

As you age, the clear protein of the lens reacts with UV sunlight exposure, causing the lens to be become cloudy. Did you know airline pilots are 3 times more likely to develop cataracts? This is because they are often exposed to UV light above the clouds.

Aging is the single most common cause of cataracts, mainly due to the lifelong exposure to UV light.

There are other causes, including:

  • Genetics: If you have a family history of cataracts, you have an increased risk of developing cataracts yourself
  • Steroids: If you take steroid eyedrops or steroid tablets, one of the side effects is cataract formation. However, do not stop these as these are often necessary to treat other conditions. Only your treating doctor will be able to adjust the treatment with steroids.
  • Eye injuries: Any trauma, or inflammation of the eye may cause lens swelling followed by cataract.
  • Other causes maybe lifestyle related, such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking or poor diets.

What symptoms may you experience?

Often cataracts are diagnosed by your ophthalmologist or optician as a result of a routine visit. As a patient however, you may notice some common symptoms that makes you seek help. These may include:

  • Difficulty seeing clearly for distance, especially when driving
  • Vision that is fading and you glasses feel smudgy
  • Sometimes a change of glasses, or changes in glasses prescriptions maybe the first sign of cataracts
  • Glare around headlights and streetlights are not uncommon and may inhibit night driving.

Treatment

Although a change of glasses may work temporarily. However, the only real permanent and effective treatment option for cataracts is a relatively straightforward and common operation to remove the cloudy natural lens and replace this with a bespoke lens suitable for your eye. Usually cataract surgery is undertaking as a daycase procedure, meaning you can return home the same day.

The operation takes about 10 minutes and is undertaken using anaesthesia eye drops. That’s right, generally this means no injections! Usually you regain feeling in your eye several hours after the operation.

After the surgery, the eye is covered with an eyeshield, generally worn at night for a week or so after. In the absence of any other medical problems with the eye, most patients experience improved vision within a day or 2 after the operation.

No operation is risk free, and although the vast majority of patients are much improved following surgery, permanent visual loss can occur. The risk of infection is rare but can affect upto 1 in 1000 operations and may result in permanent sight loss.

If you need to know more about your potential path from referral through the entire journey for cataract surgery, please link below:

Frequently asked questions

What is a cataract?

A cataract is when the natural lens within your eyes becomes cloudy and limits your vision. Often they are there and you may not know that they are present until your optician tells you.

Why have I developed cataracts?

Often this is due to aging and nothing more. However, other causes may include:
  • A family history of cataracts
  • Use of medications, such as steroids
  • Injuries to the eye

Are my family at risk of cataracts?

Yes, cataracts can run in families but unfortunately there isn’t any treatment to prevent them from happening just yet, so we wait until they affect your sight and then remove them through an operation.

How do I treat cataracts?

The only effective treatment for cataracts is an operation. The operation is generally undertaken under local anaesthetic so you are awake. However, the operation is generally quick and fairly straightforward, although complications can occur that impair your vision life-long.

What happens at the preassessment appointment?

Don’t worry, Community Eyecare are there to ensure we meet your expectations and answer any questions so you are at ease before the operation. At the preassessment you will initially be greeted by our friendly reception staff. They will provide you with an information booklet which you can read whilst waiting for the nurse. Once the nurse calls you into their room, they will go through some medical history questions with you and measure your eyes for the lens we will use to replace your nature lens. Following dilating drops, a clinician will see you and assess your eyes again. You will have the opportunity to ask any questions at this stage before signing the consent form. Don’t worry, we are all here to help and signing a consent form does not mean you have to have the operation. Its just a record of the discussions you have had and confirmation of the eye that is having the operation.

How long do I wait for a date for the operation?

Usually, a date for surgery is provided at the time of the preassessment and is usually within 10 days.

Do I have one eye done first or both together?

We pretty much always do one eye first. The eye chosen depends on the discussions with you and the preassessment clinician. Generally, it will be your worst seeing eye, but it also depends on other medical conditions that affect your eyes.

Can you tell me about the cataract operation and what happens?

On the day of surgery expect a 2-3 visit, sometimes longer. You will again be greeted by our reassuring receptionists. An admission nurse will then go through your assessment again to ensure nothing has changed. Remember to take your normal tablets on the day and if you are on warfarin, bring your yellow book with you. The nurse will then put a small white tablet in your lower eyelid after confirming the eye you are having operated. They will place a wristband on your arm. The dilating tablet takes 30-45 minutes to work. Once you are ready, a nurse will take you into the anaesthetic room where they will check your details and then place some anaesthetic drops in the eye to numb the eye before the operation. When you are ready, you are taken into the operating room where everyone will introduce themselves. We will lay you flat (as much as possible) and then clean around the eye. Please do not wear any face or eye makeup on the day. You will then have a cover over you with oxygen below this. After looking at the bright light for 10-15 minutes the operation will be finished.

What happens after the operation?

After the operation, a plastic shield covers the eye and stays in place for the first 24 hours and then at night for 2 weeks. The discharging nurse will give you a nice hot cup of tea and a biscuit while they talk you through the instructions after the operation. They will give you drops to take with appropriate instructions.

When can I drive or go on holiday after the operation?

We usually say not to drive until you fit the driving criteria, but generally this is after you have seen your optician after 2-3 weeks. You can go on holiday after about 14 days.

How long until I can wash my face?

We recommend you avoid water in the eye for about 2 weeks. You can wash your face, but use a wet cloth and avoid the eye area. After 2 weeks, you will be back to normal with great vision.

Can I use eyedrops for dry eyes and glaucoma?

Yes, these can be used as well as the new drops you are given. Please use a new bottle and wait for at least 24 hours.

What do I do if I run out of drops?

Please contact your GP for a re-prescription of eye drops if you run out.

How long will my eyes be blurry, light sensitive and gritty?

The blurriness of your vision usually subsides after a few days, so if your vision becomes worse quite suddenly please contact us immediately. Grittiness and light-sensitivity is common and can last upto 6 months in some cases. Its annoying but an innocent finding.

Cataract Journey

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