A cataract is the clouding or opacification of the lens inside the eye that lies behind the iris. In a normal eye, this lens is clear and focuses light rays on to the back of the eye where messages are sent from the retina to our brains to allow us to see.
When a cataract develops, this lens becomes cloudy and prevents the light rays from passing on to the retina, leaving the image received by the retina dull and fuzzy.
Cataract surgery removes this opacification to improve blurry vision.
Cataracts form slowly and most people experience this as a gradual blurring of vision. Though cataracts develop later in adult life, some types of eye conditions can be caused by injury, steroids and diseases like diabetes as well.
Babies can also be born with congenital cataracts, which are usually caused by infections the mother suffered during pregnancy.
Most commonly, cataracts begin to develop after the age of 40 in one or both of the eyes. The condition, however, cannot spread from one eye to another and is not caused by the overuse of eyes either.
Currently, effective preventative measures for cataracts are unknown but some doctors suggest adopting a healthy diet, quitting smoking and drinking less. Regular eye tests for early detection are also recommended.
Cataracts have to be removed when they begin to interfere with daily activities and surgery is the only effective way to remove them. Before cataract surgery at Somerset Eye, a nurse (assistant) or doctor will measure the affected eye to decide the strength of the intraocular lens. This intraocular lens replaces the natural lens of the eye and will help improve vision. Though Somerset Eye cannot guarantee that the chosen lens will be the perfect match, it will be very close to the natural lens.
During surgery, the eye specialist will use a microscope to remove the cataract via a technique called phacoemulsification. This technique uses sound waves to soften the lens, which is then removed through a small tube. The back layer of the lens is left behind and the new lens is placed in front of it.
The procedure, which takes about 20 minutes under local anaesthetic, is painless and self-healing. Well over 90% of cataract operations are successful in restoring useful (full) vision, with a low complication rate. Many patients, however, will still require reading and/or distance glasses for other eye problems.
If you happen to have cataracts in both eyes, the more seriously affected eye is operated on first. This is because cataracts tend to develop more quickly in one eye than in the other.