The clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye, because proteins and fibres in the lens begin to break down, causing vision to become hazy or cloudy, is a medical condition referred to as cataract.
Mostly age related, cataract can be caused by diabetes, excessive smoking, drinking alcohol, obesity, certain medication, overexposure to sunlight, radiation and inherited genetic factors can increase your risk of cataracts.
Across the world, cataract is considered to be one of the main causes of blindness. The World Health Organization estimates that cataracts affect approximately 65.2 million people and causes moderate to severe vision loss in over 80% cases.
To diagnose whether you have a cataract, your ophthalmologist will review your symptoms and medical history and perform an examination of both your eyes. The tests will include
Visual acuity test: An eye chart is used to gauge how clearly you can see a series of letters on it. Your eyes will be tested one at a time to determine if your vision shows signs of impairment
Slit-lamp examination: A slit lamp is used by your ophthalmologist to magnify the structures of your eye. It uses an intense line of light – a slit, to illuminate your cornea, iris, lens, and the space between your iris and cornea to view and detect any abnormalities
Retinal exam. Your pupils are dilated using eye drops so that the doctor can examine the back of your eyes (retina). Using an ophthalmoscope, the doctor can examine your lens for signs of a cataract.
Applanation tonometry. This test measures fluid pressure in your eye. There are multiple different devices available to do this.
Cataract treatment – surgery
Once a diagnosis is made, most ophthalmologists recommend a cataract surgery when the cataract begin to affect your quality of life or interfere with your ability to perform normal daily activities, such as reading or driving at night. Since cataract is known to worsen faster in people who are diabetic, obese or hypertensive, the doctor will suggest an appropriate course of action.
Having established the need for surgery, the doctor will inform you that there are two types of cataract surgeries
Traditional Cataract Surgery: It is one of the most common surgeries in the world. It is recognized as being safe and effective
Laser-assisted Cataract Surgery: In certain situations, the doctor may recommend a laser assisted surgery.
It is up to your doctor to determine which of the two would be ideal in your case. You can always take a second opinion if you wish.
Before surgery, the ophthalmic use a surgeon will use a local anaesthetic to numb the area around your eye. The surgical procedure involves removing the clouded lens and replacing it with a clear artificial lens, which is made of plastic, silicone, or acrylic. The artificial lens is positioned in the same place as your natural lens and becomes a permanent part of your eye.
Advantages of Cataract Surgery
- Cataract surgery is a simple procedure
- It is a painless surgery and you will be awake during the surgery
- The tiny incision allows for a very fast discharge and speedy recovery
- The cut is so small so there no suturing
- The patient does not need to stay in the hospital after surgery
- There is no need to use an eye patch.
- The surgery, if performed by an expert at a reliable centre, is riskless
- Complete healing generally occurs within a few weeks
- It benefits the patient by improving vision and quality of life and thereby allowing mobility of the patient
Disadvantages of Cataract Surgery
Though the chances of any issues post-surgery are minimal, much depends on surgical expertise, technology used and the after-surgery protocol that you are advised to follow. Some complications of cataract surgery are:
- Eye infection
- Reduced vision, because of lens capsule tearing
- Fragment left over, which might require you another operation
- Retina damage and implant dislocation
- Retinal detachment — the breaking away of a layer of tissue at the back of your eye that senses light
- Drooping eyelid
- Temporary rise in eye pressure 12-24 hours after surgery
Cataract surgery is not inexpensive, but the chance of regaining excellent vision is a motivation to consult a doctor and get the treatment going.
After Cataract Surgery
For a few days, your eye may itch or feel sore. You may also have a little tearing and find it hard to see well in bright light. It is advisable to keep your glares on bright light during this period. Your doctor will prescribe eyedrops to prevent infection. You’ll need to take it every few hours, as recommended for a few days, and take it easy.