Cataracts develop as a completely normal part of aging, usually developing slowly over time and even at a different rate for each eye. The lens of the eye is normally transparent; if a “cloudy” area begins to develop in this lens, this is called a cataract. As a result of this “cloudy” area vision becomes increasingly poor as the amount of light able to pass through the lens is decreased and scattered.
Years may pass by before the cataract actually interferes with a person’s sight enough for them to seek professional advice. By the age of 70 almost everybody will have some degree of cataract formation in the eye. There are other causes of cataracts in addition to old age, such as diabetes, various eye conditions/diseases, eye injury or excessive exposure to ultraviolet light.
Early symptoms of cataracts can include:
- Sensitivity to bright light
- Haloes may appear around lights (as cataracts continue to worsen)
- Blurred/hazy/foggy vision
The only treatment for cataracts is cataract surgery; the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with a permanently implanted artificial lens (this is called an intraocular lens, IOL). This artificial lens is a transparent plastic disc that is shaped similar to the natural lens. There are various types of IOL available to suit individual patients.
Once your lens becomes cloudy it will never recover former normal clarity. If you choose not to have cataract surgery your symptoms and condition may continue to worsen over time. Before making the decision to have cataract surgery please consult with your ophthalmologist so you fully understand the risks, benefits and limitations of surgery. Your ophthalmologist will need to be aware of your medical history before proceeding with cataract surgery as some health problems may interfere with surgery.
Types of Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is typically performed under a local anaesthesia and light sedation for the comfort of the patient. There are several techniques/types of cataract surgery:
- Phacoemulsification – your surgeon will make a small incision near the border of the cornea and sclera, or in the cornea. A small probe is then inserted into the lens capsule in order to divide the lens into pieces, and then the pieces are gently suctioned away before the IOL is inserted.
- Extracapsular cataract extraction – your surgeon will make a 10-12mm incision near the border of the cornea and sclera, or in the cornea. The lens is removed from the lens capsule and the IOL is then inserted.
- Intracapsular extraction – your surgeon will remove the entire lens and lens capsule, before inserting the IOL. Usually your ophthalmologist will wait for your first eye to heal before operating on your second eye.
For more information on cataract surgery or the surgical options that would be best suited to you please contact our team today on (02) 9868 2333.