The normal function of an eye lens is to focus light so that you can see clear, sharp images. When a cataract occurs, the lens inside your eye becomes cloudy making it difficult to see well enough to carry out your daily activities.
One or both eyes may be affected and, as the cataract develops, it gradually restricts the amount of light that is able to enter your eye, and you may experience some or all of the following symptoms blurred vision, colours seem faded, frequent changes required to your spectacle prescription or visual problems with light.
Most cataracts are a natural result of ageing but they may occur in younger people due to a variety of reasons including diseases such as diabetes or glaucoma and trauma or injury to the eye amongst others. There is also a tendency for cataracts to run in families.
Cataracts can take many years to develop. If the symptoms of your cataract affect your day-to-day activities, you may consider an operation to remove the cataract and replace it with an artificial lens implant. This will allow the light to pass through to the back of your eye again.
There are occasions when an intra-ocular lens implant is not possible. In this case, contact lens or glasses will be prescribed in order to correct your vision.
During the operation, the cataract is removed and replaced by an artificial lens (implant). The most common way to remove the cataract is by a technique called Phacoemulsification. A small incision is made in the front of the eye and a probe is passed through the incision. The probe breaks the cataract into very small pieces, which are then sucked out leaving the clear lens capsule.
A plastic lens is then folded and passed through the incision into the lens capsule where it unfolds to its normal shape. The small incision usually heals itself, although occasionally a stitch is required.
Immediately after the operation your eye may look red. This is due to the local anaesthetic given at the start of the operation and the antibiotic injection given at the end of the operation. This redness is normal and settles down over 4 weeks. Most patients experience little or no pain following the operation, except for a mild gritty sensation, which may occur, but this usually settles within 4-6 weeks.
Cataract surgery is a very common operation that has a very good success rate. Like any operation, there are some risks involved. Professor Stanga will take great care to limit the chance of these problems occurring. The commonest problem that occurs during cataract surgery is the lens capsule bag breaking.
If the lens capsule bag breaks during the operation some of the cataract may float into the jelly at the back of the eye, and Professor Stanga may need to perform a second operation called a vitrectomy.
The lens capsule bag supports the new lens implant. If the bag breaks, a different type of lens implant may be used, and stitches may be required. If this is the case, the operation will take a few minutes longer and your eye will take a few weeks longer to recover. However, the final visual result is usually the same.
The most serious sight-threatening problem that can happen during cataract surgery is internal bleeding inside the eye. Less than 1 patient in 1000 patients operated on will have this problem.
Sometimes scarring can occur after cataract surgery and this is quite common. When you have cataract surgery the lens is removed and a new one is inserted but the outer capsule remains in situ and supports the new lens. This capsule can thicken or become cloudy resulting in reduced vision and glare. When this happens Professor Stanga will recommend that you undergo a procedure called laser capsulotomy. This is performed using a YAG laser.