A cataract occurs when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and makes it difficult to see. The lens is used to focus light on the retina at the back of the eye in order to form images. Although cataracts usually take a long time to form, if left untreated they can eventually lead to blindness. The most common kind of cataract operation in the UK is to remove the lens and implant an artificial one.
This article on cataract surgery is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
The only way to repair a cataract is to have a cataract operation. While not all cataracts have to be removed immediately by means of cataract surgery, it is recommended if the condition affects your ability to read or drive. Your doctor may also advise you to have cataract surgery straight away in order to prevent other eye complications, such as diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration, both of which affect the blood vessels in the eye.
The medical term for a cataract removal operation is phacoemulsification, and is performed under a local anaesthetic. After applying eye drops to widen the pupil and numb the eye, the surgeon makes a tiny incision about 3mm wide in the surface (or cornea) of the eye. The affected lens is then painlessly dissolved using a fine needle that emits ultrasound waves. After the soft pieces are sucked out, a folded artificial lens made from plastic or silicon is inserted through the same incision. It then unfolds naturally in the eye. A cataract operation takes around 20 minutes.
Occasionally in cataracts treatment, an operation called a manual extracapsular extraction is needed. This cataract operation involves a larger incision and the removal of the lens in one whole piece. The cut is then closed with dissolvable stitches. You will be kept in hospital for several days after this procedure.