Cataracts are another normal part of ageing and are nothing to be concerned about. Most patients over 65 have some form of cataract development.
What is a cataract?
A cataract occurs as the crystalline lens of the eye gradually becomes opaque over time, reducing the clarity of vision. To have good vision a clear crystalline lens is needed to allow light to reach the retina. As the cataract develops less light can reach the retina, reducing the quality of your vision. Cataracts will continue to grow becoming denser until spectacles can no longer improve your vision. At this point, you can be referred for cataract surgery to restore your vision.
There are different forms of cataracts and not all have symptoms. Those that do cause blurred vision can be treated with surgery.
What is the crystalline lens?
The crystalline lens is a clear capsule found behind the iris. This lens changes shape, allowing the eye to focus on different distances.
What are the causes of a Cataract?
Cataracts are usually found in older people and are the result of long-term UV exposure to the sun. They can also be caused by trauma, diabetes, some ocular diseases or some medications. Some children can also be born with congenital cataracts.
What are the common symptoms of Cataracts?
Most people will notice a steady decrease in their quality of vision, with some struggling with glare in bright conditions, and others may notice objects have a shadow. As the development of cataracts usually occurs over several years you may not be aware of the changes to your vision until it starts to hinder your daily activities.
Our Optometrist will be able to identify any cataracts in their early stages and will monitor them closely until they’re ready for treatment.
How are Cataracts treated?
A cataract is not an opaque film covering the lens but rather the whole lens itself. To remove the cataract you will undergo a simple operation where the opaque lens is removed and replaced with an artificial implant. In some case the implants used also corrects the requirement for a distance prescription, leaving patients only requiring reading spectacles after the procedure.
The Cataract Operation
Cataract surgery is now one of the most routine surgeries performed. Thanks to the speed and relative simplicity of the operation most are performed as a day-case procedure under local anaesthetic.
For the opaque lens to be removed, a tiny incision is made into the eye, and an ultrasonic probe is used to break down and remove the middle of the crystalline lens. The new implant is then inserted into the original lens capsule that’s still in place. The procedure itself only takes around 15-20 minutes to complete.
Most patients find visual recovery to be very fast, usually within a few days.
What implant will be used?
Before every cataract surgery, you will go through a process called biometry, where measurements are taken to calculate the power of the implant needed.
Most patients are fitted with a mono-focal lens, which is calculated to correct any pre-existing distance prescription. Whilst the distance vision will be clear patients will still require spectacles for close work.
An alternative implant option is a Multifocal lens, designed to remove patient reliance on spectacles for both distance and near vision. However, some patients have noted a reduction in their contrast sensitivity as well as halos and glare from lights at night. The planning and management required for both pre and post-op for patients wishing to opt for Multifocal implants are much more complicated than for a simple Monofocal implant, and one of the main reasons they are not offered by the NHS.