Cataracts

Cataracts

What are cataracts?

A cataract is a condition where the lens inside your eye becomes progressively opaque, resulting in blurry vision. While cataracts are not painful, they do interfere with your vision and steal your ability to drive and read properly. People mostly get cataracts in both eyes, although one eye may be worse than the other. The good news is that cataracts can be successfully removed by undergoing surgery, restoring vision in almost everyone.

What causes cataracts?

Cataracts mostly develop as part of the normal ageing process. The age of occurrence is around the age of 50 and they develop slowly over time. For some patients they may develop earlier or faster than others.


Here are a few factors that can contribute to the development of cataracts:

  • Injury to the eyes
  • Previous eye surgeries
  • The use of certain medication, for example cortisone (steroids)
  • Radiation treatment to the upper body
  • Spending hours in the sun without any protection (sunglasses)

Symptoms

Clouded or blurry vision is often the first sign of cataracts. The vision will appear misty as if you are looking through a dirty window. It may feel that your glasses are constantly dirty.

Patients usually complain about their eyes being sensitive to bright light, they see glare around lights when driving at night, or they cannot see at all. The patient may see colour changes (colours appear faded) and/or they may have double vision.

Types of cataracts

How are cataracts treated?

Surgery is the only option for removing cataracts but is often not necessary immediately. As time goes by the cataracts gradually get denser and when they interfere with your vision it becomes necessary for the operation.

Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most frequently performed surgeries. Sometimes patients need cataract surgery to see and treat other eye conditions, such as age-related changes in the retina or diabetic retinopathy. Nine out of ten people see better after cataract removal although you still might need to wear glasses or contacts after cataract surgery.

Cataracts are removed by means of a Phacoemulsification procedure.  This means that the cataract is broken up with ultrasound waves and removed through a very tiny incision in your cornea. An artificial intra-ocular lens will then be inserted through the same incision. The lens implants for cataracts are permanent and usually do not need to be replaced.

Cataract surgery is done as a day procedure and only takes 10-20 minutes. Your sight will be improved within 24 hours.

Cataracts cannot grow again, but the artificial lenses may opacify over time (become ‘dirty’) and may then need laser treatment to clean them.  This is a quick and painless procedure done in the ophthalmologist’s office.

After surgery

Patients might have mild discomfort, watery eyes, sensitivity to light, or blurry vision after surgery. These symptoms will only last for a few days.  Eye drops will be prescribed to use for a few weeks after cataract surgery. Patients need to avoid rubbing their eyes, lifting heavy items, or doing anything that will risk injuring the eyes. The healing can take up to eight weeks, but daily activities can already resume on the day after surgery.

Prevention

Cataracts are seen as part of ageing; therefore, you cannot prevent the formation of cataracts. But there are some things you can do to delay their development:

  • Wear sunglasses or a hat to protect you from ultraviolet rays from the sun
  • Get regular eye check-ups at an eye specialist if you are 50 years or older to detect cataracts at an early stage
  • You should always follow a healthy diet that includes a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Stop smoking and the use of any tobacco products
  • Keep your systemic conditions like diabetes under control
     

If a patient decides to not go for the surgery and the cataracts are still in their early stages you can try and manage it by:

  • Using a magnifying glass for reading
  • Wearing polarized sunglasses, which reduce glare
  • Using brighter light bulbs, since it’s easier to see with more light

Conclusion

As you age, it’s typical to develop cataracts and some vision problems. But you don’t have to put up with it. Cataract removal surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries. It’s quick and relatively painless. It gives clear eyesight back to 90% of people and rarely causes complications.

If you think you might be suffering from cataracts, contact Pasteur Hospital today for an appointment with one of our Ophthalmologists who will make your life much brighter!

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