Cataract Treatment: What you need to know
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness worldwide. The good news is: cataracts are treatable, and many patients have expressed joy after finally being able to see, giving them the ability to get back to doing what they love, after undergoing cataract treatment. The prevalence increases with age, ranging around 4% of 55-64 year olds to 93% among those greater than 80 years old.
Now, if you’re one of the 95 million suffering from cataracts, it’s valid to consider cataract treatment as soon as you start experiencing the signs and symptoms.
Freedom Eye Laser specialise in providing interventions that simultaneously fix the cataract and our free patients from glasses for the rest of their life. The procedure is so safe and effective nowadays that there is no need to wait for the cataract to worsen.
To give you a better idea about cataracts and cataract surgery procedures, here’s everything you need to know.
What is a cataract and how is it treated?
A cataract is one of the most common forms of vision impairment, with millions of patients seeking treatment for it globally. They are an inevitable byproduct of ageing.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a cataract happens “when your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy. Proteins in your lens break down and cause things to look blurry, hazy or less colourful.” The lens is one of the most crucial parts of the eye because it refracts (bends) light rays that go into our eye. A normal lens should look clear. However, when clouds start to form, that could be a sign of a cataract forming on the lens.
The only effective treatment currently available to cure cataracts is surgery. With approximately 26 million procedures performed each year, cataract surgery is the most frequent surgical operation conducted worldwide.
The procedure involves replacing the clouding natural lens with a clear artificial implant. In the majority of cases globally, a single focus (monofocal) lens is used.
Freedom Eye Laser offers state-of-the-art technology with premium multifocal intraocular lenses. Dr James Genge has sub-specialty Fellowship training in refractive surgery and vast experience using the most advanced optics.
What are the signs and symptoms of cataracts?
In its early stages, you won’t experience any vision loss even if you already have a cataract because the cloudiness may only affect a small part of your lens. But as the condition progresses, you will start to experience signs and symptoms such as:
- Sensitivity to bright light and glare
- Blurry, dimmed or clouded vision
- Double vision or seeing halos
- The need for brighter light to see better during daily activities
- Difficulty seeing at night
- The need to change eyeglasses or contact lenses frequently
So, if you start to experience any changes in your vision, it’s best to see your optometrist or GP for an eye health check and be referred to an eye doctor to assess if a cataract is present and whether cataract treatment is necessary/required.
How is a cataract diagnosed?
As soon as you seek consultation, your doctor will perform a series of tests to assess whether you have a cataract, its severity, and the best treatment options.
At Freedom Eye Laser, you can expect to go through a few checks while in our practice:
- Medical history assessment. The chances of getting cataract increase with several risk factors that are related to your family, your lifestyle, and the environment that you’re in. A doctor will do a comprehensive medical history assessment to know your general health and how risk factors relate to your condition.
- Visual acuity test. All eye doctors will test your eyes for visual acuity using Snellen’s chart, allowing doctors to determine how well you can read a series of letters. We will test each eye individually to know if you have 20/20 vision or if you have vision impairment in one or both eyes.
- Retinal exam. A retinal exam is also one of the basic tests an eye doctor performs to determine if you have a cataract. We will out eye drops on each eye to help the pupils dilate, to making it easier for the doctor to see your retina using an ophthalmoscope or slit lamp.
- Documentation by photography. If we identify any level of cataract, we photograph it to confirm its presence.
- Questionnaire. We would then get you to fill in a questionnaire to understand your vision impairment and the effect cataracts are having on your lifestyle.
- Eye examination with the Doctor. You will then see the Doctor who will perform an eye examination. The Slit-lamp examination is one of the most common eye examinations doctors perform to diagnose cataracts. A slit lamp will be used to illuminate your iris, lens, cornea and the spaces between them, so the doctor can see all the components of your eye under magnification. This makes it easier to determine any abnormalities such as cataracts. Then the doctor will determine the best approach and determine which lens would be most appropriate and beneficial for your lifestyle.
What happens if I’m diagnosed with a cataract?
If you are diagnosed with a cataract and recommended a type of lens, we will then explain cataract surgery procedure in more detail. Surgery is suggested when your cataract or the need for glasses is affecting your quality of life. This means that you’re not able to perform your normal activities of daily living because you can’t see well. So, if you have difficulty driving at night, reading a book or simply (or easily) walking when there’s not much light, you’re a good candidate for cataract surgery. In addition, if you have a cataract present and wish to be free of glasses, cataract surgery will fulfil your visual goals.
What happens during cataract surgery?
A cataract surgery procedure is performed to remove the clouded lens in your eyes and replace it with a clear artificial lens. This lens will be positioned in the same place where your natural lens was, and will remain there permanently.
In most cases, we will perform your cataract surgery in a day surgery.
Here’s what to expect with cataract surgery, before, during and after.
Before the surgery:
- – the doctor will determine the right artificial lens for you.
- – You’ll also undergo a pre-operation assessment, where you’ll be given instructions on what to avoid, what to do, and how to prepare yourself for the day of the surgery. You will be given some eye drops to prepare the eye for a surgical procedure.
- – Our practice provides the prescription and will inform you of the schedule for drops.
- – We will also send you a reminder the day before to make sure that you are ready for your surgery.
- – There will be a pre-admission form from the hospital, and the hospital will inform you of the time you will be attending.
- – We will explain the whole process to you, from a billing and procedural perspective. If there is private health insurance involved, there will be charges that relate to the hospital themselves. In terms of preparing for the surgery, take sunglasses as you will feel the glare when you come out.
During the surgery:
- – A tiny 2mm peripheral incision is performed in the cornea. Through this, a 5mm circular opening is performed in the natural lens outermost capsule. The cloudy lens contents are removed and the capsule left intact to hold the new lens within.
- – A typical cataract surgery procedure is generally painless. You will be under observation for at least 30 minutes before you are assessed to determine if you’re fine to go home.
- – Each cataract procedure requires the doctor to be scrubbed and will complete the procedure within 30 mins.
After the surgery:
- – You should have someone to drive you home as you will be wearing protective eye shields which can blur your vision. You will have also received anaesthesia so you will be somewhat sedated.
- – You will be asked to wear protective eye shields, especially at night to avoid accidentally touching your eye.
- – You’ll also be prescribed eye drops to assist with healing. Your doctor will also give you instructions on what to watch out for after surgery, what activities to avoid, what to do to help with healing, and when you’ll return for a check-up. In most cases, you’ll return to most activities within a day. You will then be scheduled for a follow-up visit to check your progress.
- – All cataract patients are reviewed the following morning after surgery. Lens placement is reviewed and a visual check conducted. You will only need to wear the eye shields for 2 nights while sleeping. Activities like swimming or that involve heavy sweating should be avoided for 2 weeks to reduce risk of infection. All other activities can resume as normal within a day including driving, working and enjoying new moments with your new vision!
- – After 3 months, we schedule a follow-up appointment with you to check on your progress.
While lasers can perform some of the steps, this has been proven to be higher risk and more expensive than surgeon-controlled surgery.
If you are interested in finding out more about what to expect for your cataract treatment, get in touch with us here.