Cataracts are when the clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy or misty. It is a gradual process that usually happens as you get older.
The only proven treatment is surgery. If it gets to the stage where cataracts affect your sight, your optometrist will refer you to hospital where surgery is carried out under anaesthetic. Once removed, a cataract will not return.
The main cause is age however smoking and sunlight exposure have also been linked. Younger people can develop cataracts if they have an injury to the eye. Some medical conditions including diabetes or taking some sorts of medication can cause cataracts. A small number of babies are born with them.
Cataracts and your vision
Many people notice that their prescription for glasses needs changing. Car headlights can become dazzling and you may experience difficulties moving from shade to sunlit areas with colours looking different too.
If your optometrist cannot improve your sight by changing your glasses, you can ask them to refer you to an ophthalmologist (specialist eye doctor) for surgery to remove the cloudy lens (cataract) and replace it with a clear plastic one.
The ophthalmologist will assess and measure your eyes and may be able to correct short – or long-sightedness to that you may not need to wear your glasses as much after the operation.
Most cataract operations use a local anaesthetic. The specialist makes a tiny cut in the eye to remove the cataract and insert a plastic replacement lens which takes about 20 minutes. Your eye will be covered to protect from knocks for a few days after the operation. You will be allowed to go home the same day but should have someone else to drive you home.
After the Operation
You will have eye drops to use for the first few weeks after the operation. Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise immediately after the operation. Avoid eye make-up and try not to get soapy water in your eyes when washing your hair. On a windy day, wear sunglasses to prevent grit getting in eye. Ask your specialist when to go back to work.
Will I need spectacles after the operation?
You will probably find your glasses will need changing after the operation. Your ophthalmologist or optometrist will be able to advise as to when you can drive again. It may take a few weeks to adapt to your vision with new glasses after cataract surgery.
Will the cataract return?
Sometimes the vision may become cloudy again in the eye where the cataract was removed due to the sac which contains the replacement clouding up. This cloudiness can be removed by painless laser treatment in minutes. Contact your optometrist if this happens.
Do cataracts occur in both eyes?
If a cataract has been removed from one eye, you will likely need the same treatment in the other eye at some point in the future.