Over half the people over the age of 65 have some degree of cataract development and most cases can be treated with cataract eye surgery. So, if you are alarmed because your doctor told you that you have a cataract, don’t be. A cataract is a clouding of a part of your eye called the lens. Your vision becomes blurry or dim because light cannot pass through the clouded lens to the back of the eye. Cataracts can develop over periods ranging from a few months to many years. Sometimes the cataract stops developing in its early stages and vision is only slightly impaired. But if it continues to develop, it will interfere with vision.
- A painless blurring or dimming of your vision.
- Glare, or light sensitivity.
- Frequent eyeglass prescription changes.
- Double vision in one eye.
- Needing brighter light to read.
- Poor night vision.
- Fading or yellowing of colours.
Misconceptions about Cataracts:
- It is not a growth or film over the eye.
- It is not caused by overusing the eyes.
- It is not a cancer, tumour or infection.
- It is not spread from one eye to the other.
- It is not a cause of irreversible blindness.
What causes Cataracts to develop?
Cataracts will usually develop as part of the ageing process, but can also result from:
- Eye injuries
- Certain chronic diseases such as diabetes
- Genetic inheritance
- Long-term, unprotected exposure to sunlight
- Previous eye surgery
How are Cataracts diagnosed?
A thorough eye examination with an instrument called a slit lamp microscope can detect the presence and extent of a cataract, as well as any other conditions that may be causing blurred vision or discomfort.
How can Cataracts be treated?
The cataract may need no treatment at all if the vision is only a little blurry. A change in your spectacle prescription may improve vision for a while.
There are no medications, eye drops, exercises or glasses that will cause cataracts to disappear once they have formed. When you are not able to see well enough to do the things you like to do, cataract surgery should be considered. Surgery is the only way to remove a cataract.
Pre-operatively your eye will be measured to calculate the correct power of the intra-ocular lens that will be placed in your eye during cataract surgery.
Surgery is done under topical anaesthetic, which makes the operation almost painless. The surgeon uses only eye drops to numb the eye completely, no injection or general anaesthesia is necessary.
Once the cataract has been extracted, it is replaced by an artificial lens of which the power has been determined beforehand to provide the best possible post-operative vision. This new lens allows light to pass through and focus clearly on the retina. The IOL becomes a permanent part of your eye. There are many different IOL’s available to address the patient’s specific needs, for e.g. Multifocal IOL’s, Toric IOL’s, Accommodative IOL’s and Anterior Chamber lenses. The surgeon will determine which type of IOL is best suited to the patients needs. If there is a degree of pre-existing astigmatism present it can be treated at the time of cataract surgery with an astigmatic keratotomy, ensuring a satisfactory post-operative result. Surgery does not require an overnight stay in hospital. You will be given eye drops to use for six weeks after the operation to prevent infection and reduce swelling of the cornea.
Many patients return to their normal work and lifestyle routines within a day or two.
What to expect in the long term
In some cases, the posterior capsule that supports the IOL becomes cloudy several months or years after the initial cataract removal. This is called an “after cataract” or Capsular Sclerosis. If this occurs and blurs your vision, an opening in the centre of the membrane will be made with the Yag laser. This procedure, called a posterior capsulotomy, is painless and takes about 15 minutes and requires no recuperation.
For further information on cataract surgery in Cape Town contact The Tygervalley Eye & Laser Centre.