If you would like to know about cataract surgery by an eye specialist, and the benefits of cataract surgery, you will find the information in our Private Healthcare UK Guide to Eye Surgery, created by Cosmetic and Ophthalmic Surgery Centre (COS), of interest.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye's natural lens. When the lens becomes cloudy, it interferes with the passage of light through the eye, resulting in a decrease in vision. The lens of the eye is similar to the lens of a camera. When the camera lens is not working properly you get a blurry photograph. When the lens of the eye becomes cloudy your vision decreases and things appear blurry.
What causes cataracts?
Most cataracts are related to the natural ageing of the eye. However, other factors can be involved. Some diseases, such as diabetes or glaucoma, or the use of certain medications, such as steroids, are thought to increase the chances of cataracts occurring. Often, a cataract only covers a small part of the lens; if sight is not greatly impaired there is no need to remove the cataract. However, if a large portion of the lens becomes cloudy, sight can be partially or completely lost until cataract removal occurs.
Who can have a cataract?
Cataracts can occur at any age. Most cataracts occur in people who are 60 years of age or older, although a smaller number of people develop cataracts between the ages of 45 and 60. Some cataracts occur in children at birth due to genetic disorders or if the mother had rubella (German measles). Cataracts due to injury can occur at any age.
What are some cataract symptoms?
If you have cataracts you may not realise it right away. Vision loss may be gradual, painless and hard to detect until significant loss has occurred. Depending on the nature and cause, cataracts can develop rapidly over a few months or slowly over many years. In older people, it is not unusual for cataracts to develop in both eyes but most of the time the cataract develops in only one eye at a time.
Some of the more common symptoms of cataracts include:
- Blurred vision
- Fading or yellowing of colours
- Poor night vision
- Double vision in one eye
- Halos around lights
People with a cataract in only one eye may notice a loss of depth perception; this can cause problems in judging where stairs are and determining the distance of cars driving in front of them.
What treatment for cataracts is available?
Presently, there is no medication, eye drops, exercises or glasses to cure or prevent cataracts. Cataract surgery is the only way to remove a cataract. A Cataract operation is one of the safest and most common types of surgery. Cataracts cannot be removed with a laser, only through surgical incision. In cataract surgery the cloudy lens is removed from the eye. The focusing power of the removed lens is achieved by replacing it with a permanent intraocular lens implant (IOL), which has been selected to suit the specific eye measurements of each patient.
When should the cataract be removed?
For the most part it is up to the patient to decide when they want to undergo cataract surgery. This is very much an individual decision because each patient has different vision requirements. Questions concerning cataract operations and the need for cataracts treatment should be discussed with an accredited optometrist and/or an ophthalmologist.
Shortly after cataract surgery is completed, the patient may go home and resume almost all routine activities. However, it must be understood that complications may occur in all types of surgery, including cataract operations. In cataract removal surgery, hemorrhage, infection, and swelling are all possible, but very uncommon. The chance of any significant complication is less than 1%. Cataract surgery is among the safest and most successful procedure in the medical field.
About a year after a cataract operation, approximately 20% of the patients who undergo surgery for cataracts develop a haze of the capsular membrane surrounding the lens implant. Should this occur, YAG laser treatment is recommended. The YAG laser is used to create an opening in the clouded membrane, which significantly improves the patient's vision. It is one of the safest treatments used in ophthalmology. It is painless, requires no anesthesia or incision, and takes only minutes to complete.