A chronic, degenerative condition affecting central vision.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is when your eye's natural lens core becomes cloudy. This happens as we get older as the natural proteins in the lens continue to form throughout our lives but become more compacted in the core. This causes things to look blurry, hazy or less colourful.
What is a cataract?
Inside our eyes, we have a natural lens, which has a core that sits in a natural bag, the capsule. The lens focus light rays that come into the eye on to the retina at the back of the eye to help us see. The lens should be clear.
- Having blurry vision
- Seeing double or a ghosted image out of the eye with cataract
- Being extra sensitive to light (especially with oncoming headlights at night)
- Having trouble seeing well at night, or needing more light when you read
- Seeing bright colours as faded or yellow instead
What Causes Cataracts?
Getting older is the most common cause. This is due to normal eye changes that begin to happen after age 30. People over age 60 usually start to have some clouding of their lenses. However, vision problems may not happen until years later.
Other reasons you may get cataracts include:
- having parents, brothers, sisters, or other family members who have cataracts
- having certain medical problems, such as diabetes
- having had an eye injury, eye surgery, or radiation treatments on your upper body
- having spent a lot of time in the sun, especially without sunglasses that protect your eyes from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays
- using certain medications such as corticosteroids, which may cause early formation of cataracts.
Most age-related cataracts develop gradually. Other cataracts can develop more quickly, such as those in younger people or those in people with diabetes. Eye doctors and Optometrists can’t predict how quickly a person’s cataract will develop.
Cataracts can be removed only with surgery.
If your cataract symptoms are not bothering you very much, you don’t have to remove a cataract. You might just need a new eyeglass prescription to help you see better. You should consider surgery when cataracts keep you from doing things you want or need to do.
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How does cataract surgery work?
- During cataract surgery, your eye surgeon will remove your eye’s cloudy natural lens core leaving the bag, or capsule behind. Then he or she will replace the core with an artificial lens which sits in the original natural bag. This new lens is called an intraocular lens (or IOL). When you decide to have cataract surgery, your eye doctor or Optometrist will talk with you about IOLs and how they work.
- People who have had cataract surgery may have their vision become hazy again years later. This is usually because the natural lens bag or capsule has become cloudy. This because the IOL causes a biofilm to form on the capsule. The capsule is holding the IOL in place. Your eye doctor can use a laser focused through your pupil to make an opening in the cloudy capsule and restore clear vision. This is called a YAG capsulotomy
- Cataracts are a very common reason people lose vision, but they can be treated. You and your eye doctor or optometrist should discuss your cataract symptoms. Together you can decide whether you are ready for cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery: frequently asked questions
You will be in the hospital for approximately 4 to 5 hours altogether. The surgery itself takes 25 to 30 minutes.
No. A gown will be provided for your time in theatre. Otherwise, dress comfortably.
Yes, you need to fast for 6 hours before your appointment time. If your appointment time is before 12.00 Midday you need to fast from 12.00 Midnight. This is in case you need a general anaesthetic. If you take any important medication, take it with a small sip of water. We do not want to interfere with important medications for your blood pressure, diabetes or other health conditions.
Yes, you do not need to stop any blood thinners that you take every day
Most people are awake but sedated for the surgery. You will be given drops to numb the eye and sedation into a vein in your hand or arm to help with any anxiety you have. During the operation an eyelid speculum will also be used to keep the eye open. You will see a bright light that changes colour and you will feel cool water on your eye.
If you are nervous on the day and think you want a general anaesthetic, you can discuss this with your eye doctor or optometrist prior to surgery. Some people find the theatre light to be very bright and are unable to tolerate it. If this is the case, your eye doctor could decide to give you a general anaesthetic.
If you decide you do not want to be aware of anything happening during the surgery will be need to have a general anaesthetic. This does not mean that you will have to stay overnight in the hospital but you may be in the hospital for an extra hour or so.
You will need someone to bring you and collect you from the hospital. The day ward nursing staff will phone that person for you when you are nearly ready to go. It is nice to have somebody to take you home and help you settle in.
Keep the eye shield on the eye for the first day then only at night-time for the first week. If you have a double pad and a shield, remove the pad at 6pm that evening but keep the shield on that night and then only at night for the first week.
- You will be given a prescription for the post-operative steroid drops and are asked to put a drop in at 6pm and 10pm on the evening of surgery. These drops are usually used four times a day for the first week and then reduced down by one drop per day each week for the next three weeks (i.e. 4 drops a day first week, 3 drops a day second week, 2 drops a day third week, 1 drop a day fourth week). The Prescription also includes an antibiotic drop which is usually used four times a day for one week only
- You can experience blurred vision or a gritty sensation in the eye for the first few days after surgery.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before cleaning the eye or applying your eye drops.
- If necessary, clean around the eye with previously boiled water that has been allowed to cool.
- Apply all drops and /or ointments as prescribed by Mark.
- Wear dark glasses if you feel your eyes are sensitive to light
- Wear the shield continuously if you feel you are rubbing your eye.
- Take life easy, taking particular care going up and down stairs
- Attend your post operative clinic appointment.
- Call if you have any problems or pain
- Get water into your eye for the first day.
- Rub the eye under any circumstances.
- Stoop, bend or lift anything heavier than 10 pounds for one week
- Undertake work or sports until advised by your eye doctor.
A day ward nurse will give you your post-operative instructions on the day of surgery. It is important to try to avoid any bending, stooping or heavy lifting for 10 to 14 days after surgery. Anything that will raise the pressure in your head should be avoided. Golf or cycling should be avoided for 2 weeks and swimming should be avoided for 4 to 6 weeks (due to risk of infection). The post-operative review is generally 2 to 4 weeks after surgery, by that stage we normally give you the all-clear to return to most normal activities.
You should not drive on the day of your surgery, or the next day. But the eye should be settled by the second day following surgery. You should only return to driving if you are comfortable.
The eye should be fully settled before you return to your optometrist to update your glasses. We usually recommend waiting until 2 weeks after you have stopped your drops.
If one eye only has been done, you can ask your optometrist/optician to remove the lens from the eye that has been done and replace it with a clear lens, until both eyes have been done.