What is a cataract?
The lens of the eye acts to focus light upon the retina so that the brain can register the image we see. As we age, our lens becomes thicker, clouded, and eventually opaque. Over time, when this change affects the eyes ability to focus light sharply, it is called a cataract. Vision through a cataract can be compared to looking through a piece of wax paper. Quite common, cataracts can occur in one or both eyes. Part of the normal aging process, cataracts can also occur as a consequence of injury, disease, medications, particularly corticosteroids, as well as some other rare causes. Cataracts impair vision, making everyday activities such as driving and reading increasingly difficult.
What are the symptoms of cataract?
- Blurred, cloudy or dulled vision
- Frequent changes in prescriptions for glasses or contact lenses
- Light sensitivity
- Ghost images
- Halos around lights
- Yellowing or fading effect on colors
How can we manage cataracts?
Cataracts are progressive, and when vision is impaired, treatment is required. This is accomplished with cataract surgery, one of the most common operations performed in the world today. Advances over the last decade have resulted in better techniques for cataract removal, improved visual outcomes, and faster recovery. Every year millions of people achieve outstanding results from cataract surgery.
If you or a family member has been diagnosed with cataracts, please call to schedule an appointment. Dr. Beltz is dedicated to achieving excellent results with cataract surgery, and together with her team will guide you through each step of the process.
Cataract surgery operation
Cataract surgery is performed as an outpatient day-surgery procedure. Under normal circumstances the patient will go home on the same day. Under local anaesthetic, the patient is awake but will not feel any pain nor be able to see the instruments. A tiny incision is made in the eye. Through this incision, Dr. Beltz, inserts an instrument the size of a pen tip and uses gentle pulses of ultrasound energy to break up and remove your cloudy lens – a process called phacoemulsification. Once the clouded lens has been removed, it is replaced with an artificial lens, also known as an intraocular lens (IOL). The IOL performs the task of your previous cloudy lens. The surgical incisions are very small and usually no sutures are required. The entire period at the surgical centre takes just a few hours.
Intraocular Lens Options
IOLs are available in a variety of materials and designs. Most IOLs used in our practice are coated with UV filters and are better at blocking the light rays in the blue spectrum. This is thought to reduce the possibility of macular degeneration (age related damage to the back of the eye) that is one of the most common causes of visual loss in Australia.
Monofocal lens implants provide focusing of a single power, with a choice of correction for either far or near vision. Most patients opt for correction of far vision, meaning that there will be reduced or no need for eyeglasses for distance. However, reading glasses to focus for near and possibly intermediate work after your operation would be required. Sometimes, due to the natural condition of your eye, or particular visual needs that you may have, particular IOLs called Premium IOLs may be considered.
A multifocal IOL can increase your chance for a life free from eyeglass dependence or contacts after cataract surgery for near, far, and intermediate vision. The downside of this lens choice is the possibility of suffering glare or haloes around lights, particularly at night.
The Toric IOL is designed to eliminate or reduce the degree of astigmatism in your eye. Astigmatism occurs when your eye has a stronger power in one direction or meridian than the other. Prior to the existence of Toric IOLs, astigmatism was a common reason to still need glasses for distance and for near after cataract surgery.
The different types of IOL described above are all implanted in the same way. They differ in terms of they type of vision that they provide. Dr. Beltz will advise you of the best options for your eye, and together you will be able to decide on the best IOL choice for you.
Preparing for cataract surgery and what to expect afterwards
- Fasting instructions and presentation time will be provided to you by the clinic.
- Arrange for someone to drive you home
- Unnecessary physical exertion should be avoided so ideally you should have someone to stay with you overnight. Avoid bending over, excessive strain, or lifting heavy objects for the first two weeks after your surgery, as these activities may place increased pressure on your healing eye. Light exercise may be continued, but avoid swimming for four weeks
- You will have an eye patch and protective shield the day of surgery
- Avoid rubbing or pressing on your eye; it is normal to feel itching and mild discomfort
- Clean your eyelids gently with cotton balls after your patch is removed
- Eye drops are prescribed to start once the patch is removed. These prevent infection and reduce swelling, and most commonly would continue for at least 4 weeks.
- Gentle washing of your face and hair, may occur the day after your operation
- Resume driving once you have been cleared to do so by Dr Beltz. Do not drive with your eye covered
- All going well, you can expect to heal quickly with your vision starting to improve within a few days. If your surgery required a larger incision and sutures, full healing may take up to eight weeks
- If you have cataracts in both eyes, you will have surgery on one eye at a time