What is a cataract?
Cataracts are a very common eye condition that usually develop as we age. It’s caused by the formation of cloudy or misty patches in the clear lens inside the eye. In its early stages, a cataract will not necessarily affect your vision.
What are the symptoms?
Cataracts are not usually painful, nor do they irritate your eyes. You may not even notice any symptoms at first, as they typically develop over several years. But usually, people with cataracts will experience blurred or cloudy vision, or have patches where your vision is less clear.
Who needs cataract surgery?
Cataracts will not usually damage your eyes, but if you find that the cloudiness of your vision, caused by the cataract, starts to make it difficult to see and carry out your normal daily activities, it might be time for you to consider cataract surgery.
Your vision may stay the same without surgery, but it is likely that it will gradually get worse over time.
What are the benefits of having surgery?
The most obvious benefit to cataract surgery is the improvement in your vision. The vast majority of patients find that their eyesight improves considerably after surgery. This is because your surgery involves removing the cloudy lens (cataract) and replacing it with a new plastic lens.
You may also notice an improvement in sharpness, brightness and your perception of colour.
Before your treatment
Before you have your surgery, you’ll have your vision measured and a biometry test to ensure that your new lens is the correct one for you. A nurse will go through some relevant health checks and talk you through the procedure. You’ll also meet with your consultant eye surgeon who will examine your eyes, and answer any questions you may have.
How is the surgery done?
Most cataract operations are performed under a local anaesthetic – so you’ll be awake and may be able to see some movement around your eye, but your consultant will make sure you don’t feel anything, as well as talking you through everything they’re doing.
The procedure will normally take anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes. Your consultant will make a very small cut in the eye to remove the cataract and then replace it with an artificial lens. You may need a small stitch, but in most cases stitches aren’t needed.
After the operation, you’ll initially need to keep your eye covered to protect it from any accidental damage. You can go home the same day, but you won’t be able to drive during this time. Someone will need to look after you for about 24 hours after your procedure.
What are the possible complications?
As with most surgical procedures, there is a small element of risk to cataract surgery. Your consultant will discuss these fully with you.
How long is the recovery period?
After cataract surgery, you will be mobile, but you will need to make sure that you rest. It’s normal to experience some itchiness, sticky eyelids, or fluid discharge during this time. Mild discomfort can be managed by taking paracetamol as advised.
But after a few days even mild discomfort should begin to disappear, and in most cases healing will take about two to six weeks.
During recovery you’ll need to wear a plastic shield at night to protect the eye when sleeping. You’ll also need to use eye drops for about four weeks to reduce inflammation and prevent infection. Your consultant will discuss all these details with you during your appointment.
Guide to common eye conditions and treatments
At Newmedica, we treat a variety of common eye conditions. Your consultant will discuss all this in detail but you’ll find more information on these pages.