Cataract Surgery (Phacoemulsification)

What are cataracts?

A cataract is when the natural lens within your eye becomes cloudy affecting the way light enters the eye, in turn blurring your vision. Symptoms of cataract can vary but include:

  • Reduced vision
  • Changes to your glasses prescription
  • Glare
  • Altered depth perception
  • Colours becoming faded

What causes cataracts?
Cataracts are very much part of the normal ageing process but can develop earlier in some cases. Some of the causes of cataracts include:

  • Diabetes
  • Longer term use of steroid medications
  • Previous eye surgery or trauma
  • A family history of cataracts
  • Eye conditions such as Uveitis

The exact cause of cataracts is not fully understood but other factors believed to also cause them, include exposure to ultraviolet, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and poor diet

How do you treat cataracts
To treat cataracts, surgery is the only option. Once your symptoms are sufficiently significant the cloudy lens material is removed and a lens implant is inserted in its place.

By far the most common technique to do this is Phacoemulsification. This type of surgery is carried out as a day procedure and normally under Local Anaesthesia though you may request some sedation or even a general anaesthetic if required.

When should you have cataract surgery?

It is commonly advised to consider cataract surgery when your symptoms start to affect your daily activities, including:

  • Driving
  • Work
  • Hobbies
  • Personal safety

Cataracts continue to develop with time, meaning that your vision will get worse if left untreated.[/accordion-item]

What happens during cataract surgery?

Once your eye is anaesthetised the surgeon will make a very small incision in the cornea (the clear window at the front of your eye). A small probe is inserted through the small incision and emits ultrasound waves to break up the cloudy lens. The lens material is turned to liquid and is gently sucked out through a tube.

Once finished the surgeon will inject in a folded up lens implant which will position itself nicely where the old lens once was. In most cases no stitches are required and the wounds heal by themselves.

Along with removing the cloudy lens, cataract surgery is likely to be a great opportunity to correct or reduce any prescriptions of short sight, long sight and/or astigmatism. Your Surgeon will discuss the options that are available to you, allowing you to choose the best fit for your lifestyle.

Are there any side effects to cataract surgery?

You will be able to go home the same day, with the whole appointment lasting around 3 hours. Depending on the type of anaesthetic used the feeling should return to your eye(s) within a few hours of the surgery. However, it can take some days for your vision to start to improve.

On discharge your nurse will go through signs and symptoms of potential problems and how to seek help for them Normal post-surgical symptoms include:

  • Watering eyes
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Gritty eyes or the sensation that a foreign body is present
  • Bloodshot or red eyes
  • These symptoms normally improve within a few days but can take several weeks to fully recover.

What happens after cataract surgery?

Your nurse will go through a thorough discharge pack with you before you go home. Emergency phone numbers will be issued just in case you have any problems afterwards and your nurse will explain what symptoms to look out for and when to seek help.

You will go home wearing an eye shield or eye pad which you should leave on until the following morning. It may be advised to replace the shield at bedtime for the first week. Your nurse will explain how to remove and bathe your eye each morning.

  • You will be required to take eye drops for around four weeks after the surgery to prevent infection and inflammation.
  • You will be advised to avoid strenuous activity and swimming pools for several weeks after the surgery.
  • You will be advised regarding driving after surgery, as this can vary between patients. Essentially you can drive as soon as you can meet the visual standards for driving as set by the DVLA.
  • How soon you can return to work will depend on your type of job and whether or not you need new glasses. Your surgeon will be able to advise you regarding this.


Cataract Surgery (Phacoemulsification) Consultants

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