Receiving a cataract diagnosis, let alone hearing that surgery may be necessary, might be frightening to some. In this article, we will discuss what a cataract is and whether or not you may require cataract surgery.
What is Cataract?
Light normally enters the eye from the front, passes through a clear lens, and reaches the retina, allowing one to see. Cataract refers to cloudiness of this natural focusing lens within the eye.
People who have cataracts usually develop them in both eyes. However, one eye may develop cataract earlier than the other. The rate of progression of the cataract might also differ between individuals. While most cataracts progress over years, some might experience a rapid deterioration, requiring earlier surgery. Watch the video below for a simple demonstration of what is cataract!
When is the Usual Onset of Cataract?
It is a condition that has a gradual onset and usually begins from the age of 40 years old. It can also occur in young people who have other conditions that lead to premature formation of cataract. These conditions include diabetes, prolonged steroid use (e.g. for chronic skin conditions, asthma, arthritis), eye injuries and myopia. In rare cases, children may also be born with cataracts (congenital cataracts).
What are the Symptoms of Cataracts?
Some people may have cataract and not even know it. Their cataract might not be fully developed, or the changes to their vision might not bother them. In other people, the cataract makes it hard for them to see and gets in the way of their daily lives. Some symptoms of cataracts include:
- One feeling a persistent blurring or cloudiness of vision that does not improve despite a change in spectacle prescription
- There might be difficulty focusing, poor vision at night, seeing haloes around light and colours appear faded
- Depending on the type of cataract, one might even experience glare or the feeling that lamps and headlights are too bright
- It can also cause a rapid change in refractive error (spectacles degree) with a constant need to update the glasses. Typically, the patient becomes progressively more myopic (more short-sighted).
What is Cataract Surgery and How is it Performed?
Cataract surgery is a minimally invasive surgery. The commonest method of surgery only requires small incisions of less than 3mm on the eyeball and makes use of ultrasound energy to break down the cataract. The particles are then suctioned out of the eye. An artificial lens (intraocular lens or IOL) is then implanted into the eye to replace the cloudy lens which has been removed.
How will I Know when I need Cataract Surgery?
If you experience a rapid change in spectacles degree, have difficulty focusing, or experience haloes and glare, you should approach your doctor for an assessment. Your doctor will perform a thorough examination and recommend surgery based on the severity of the cataract as well as the extent of visual impairment.
Will I still need Glasses after Cataract Surgery?
There is an option to be spectacle free after cataract surgery. This would depend on the type of intraocular lens inserted into the eye during the surgery.
There are many options for the artificial (or intraocular) lens such as:
Monofocal Intraocular Lens
This is a single focus lens that allows sharp vision at either far or near distance. The user might need reading or distance glasses after surgery.
Toric Intraocular Lens
This is a single focus lens that also corrects astigmatism.
Multifocal or Extended Depth Focus Intraocular Lens
This lens aims to help an individual to be spectacle free.
Book a consultation with your doctor to find out if you are a suitable candidate for spectacle free correction during cataract surgery.
How long does it take to Recover from Cataract Surgery?
In an uncomplicated cataract surgery, the patient can experience clearer vision the following day. However, instillation of eyedrops is usually required for at least 2 weeks after the cataract surgery. An eye shield will also be provided after surgery and should also be worn for the first 2 weeks. Full healing of the wound that allows an individual to resume swimming and strenuous activities or apply pressure to the eye area takes 1 month. However, most day-to-day activities like using a computer or handphone, marketing and light household chores can be performed shortly after surgery.
How do I Prevent Cataracts?
Some strategies that may be helpful in preventing or slowing down the progession of cataracts include:
- Sun protection when outdoors such as wearing sunglasses or a hat with a rim
- Have a healthy and balanced diet
- Avoid steroid medications if possible
- Go for regular eye checks above the age of 40 to assess your eye health.