Cataracts are the most common age-related occurrence in eyes but may be congenital. They may also develop as a result of diabetes, various chronic eye diseases, eye injury or excessive ultraviolet light.
The lens becomes thicker and stiffer and appears yellow and cloudy. Eventually it may turn white, changing the colour of the pupil. A cataract may cause your vision to become fuzzy in a progressive fashion and may also be the cause of disabling glare.
Symptoms you may notice include:
- your vision may be a little blurred, like looking through a cloudy glass
- light from the sun or bulb may seem bright or glaring
- when you drive at night, oncoming headlights may cause glare or halos
- colours may not appear as bright as they used to (many televisions have been fixed by cataract surgery)
- your glasses prescription may change and your optometrist may say they "cannot improve your vision with glasses"
- you may have double vision.
These symptoms can be signs of other problems. With cataracts, vision typically becomes more blurred, hazy or foggy although near vision may improve.
How is a cataract treated?
Cataracts cannot be cured by any type of medication, eye exercise, alternative therapy, diet or glasses. Surgery is the only way to treat a cataract.
Once a cataract affects vision too much, a cataract removal operation is generally advised. This decision is usually made in consultation with an eye specialist. Removal of cataracts is the most common eye operation and one of the most common surgical procedures performed in New Zealand today. It has a high rate of success due to modern methods used. It involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens implant.
About artificial lenses
The artificial lens is called an "Intraocular Lens Implant" (IOL). It is a transparent disc with a shape similar to the natural lens.
Measurements of the eye will be undertaken by an IOL Master to determine the correct lens for your eye.
The operation is almost always done under local anaesthetic.
The procedure we use is called Phacoemulsification - a 3mm incision is made in the front of the eye and the lens is broken into tiny pieces by a special machine that emits sound waves. The lens is suctioned out of the eye capsule. In this procedure the back half of the capsule (posterior capsule) is left in place to support the new lens. Once the cataract has been removed, an artificial lens is put in to replace it. These lenses usually correct for distance vision, therefore some patients will still need reading glasses post-op. Multifocals are also available but are not suitable for everyone.
It usually takes approximately an hour and a half from the time you arrive at Kensington Hospital where the procedure will take place in their modern and friendly day stay unit. An overnight stay in hospital is not required. If you have no one to stay with you the night post-op, arrangements can be made for an overnight stay.
Post-operative care consists of eye drops 4 times a day, a check-up 1 day post-op at the rooms and at 1 week by your specialist and then, if required, a visit to your optometrist at 6 weeks post-op. You will receive comprehensive pre- and post-op instructions before surgery.
Click here for more information.
(M4V, 69.9 MB)
Dr Timothy Root's short, concise lecture discusses cataracts, historical surgery advances, modern technique, and new implant options. Very interesting with many cartoon animations during the second half.