What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the front of the eye, which can cause blurred vision and prevent you from seeing near and distant objects clearly. Sometimes cataracts make people more sensitive to glare, while for others, reading might become difficult.
A cataract is not a growth or film over the eye, and it won't cause pain or discomfort. Cataracts a re not usually associated with headaches.
WHAT CAUSES THEM?
Age is the most common cause, but cataracts can also occur in babies and children. They may develop as a result of injury or eye disease and can also be associated with medical conditions such as diabetes. Both smoking and sunlight increase the risk of cataracts.
Cataracts are not caused by reading in a bad light or eye strain.
SHOULD A CATARACT BE REMOVED?
A cataract does not have to be removed just because it is there. Rarely, removal may be necessary to prevent other complications in your eye. Usually the deciding factor is how much vision you have lost, and how much this interferes with your enjoyment of life.
Sometimes, a change of glasses will be enough to help you see clearly. If not, surgery will improve the situation significantly. You don't have to wait until your vision is very poor before having surgery, and age is no barrier to having the operation or benefiting from it.
WHAT DOES SURGERY INVOLVE?
Most cataract surgery is performed on a day-only basis under local anaesthesia. There are many variations in technique, the most common being small incision phacoemulsification surgery with implantation of an intra-ocular lens chosen specifically to match your eye.
An overnight stay in a hospital is sometimes warranted if significant general health problems exist or for social and long distance travel considerations.
Your eye may be covered or protected for one night, until the review by your surgeon the next day. You will be able to function normally from Day 1 but strenuous activities must be avoided for some weeks.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Generally, when a cataract is removed it is replaced by a plastic intra-ocular lens. Normally, this will restore the distance vision that you had before the cataract developed, although you may still need plasses for some activities.
After the operation, your Ophthalmologist will prescribe eye drops and arrange for you to return for post-operative care over the following weeks. During this time, glasses will be prescribed for your
new eye, particularly to help with reading vision.
WHO ARE THE DIFFERENT EYE PROFESSIONALS?
Your GP is usually the first person to visit if your eyes are causing you problems. If your eyes need further treatment and care, you will be referred to an Ophthalmologist. An Ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who specialises in careing for all aspects of your eyes. An Optometrist assesses vision for glasses and contact lenses, an Orthoptist checks eye movements and may give exercises and an Optical Dispenser/Optician makes your glasses as prescribed.