Cataracts are cloudy patches in the lens (the transparent structure at the front of the eye) which can make vision blurred or misty and can develop in one or both eyes. Over time, the cloudy patches can become bigger and more of them can develop. As less light is able to pass through the lens, a person’s vision is likely to become blurry or cloudy. The cloudier the lens becomes, the more a person’s sight is affected. In most cases, a cataract will continue to develop and surgery to remove the category is the only way to restore vision.
Cataract surgery is one of the most common and quickest forms of surgery. Many people are able to return to their usual daily routine 24 hours after the operation. Phacoemulsification is the most common cataract procedure and usually takes 15-30 minutes.
The procedure normally takes place under local anaesthetic, and you will be given eye drops before the operation to prepare the eye. The surgeon makes a tiny incision (cut) in your cornea (the transparent outer layer on the front of your eye). Using a small probe that releases ultrasound waves (high-frequency sound waves) the surgeon will break up the cataract and remove the pieces from your eye. When the cataract has been removed, a new lens will be inserted replacing the cataract. If you have cataracts in both eyes, surgery will be carried out on separate occasions. This gives the first eye time to heal and your vision time to return.
You will be able to go home as soon as the effects of the anaesthetic have worn off. You’ll have to arrange for someone to take care of you for the first 24 hours after surgery. Take it easy for the first two or three days after the operation and make sure to use any eye drops you are given by the hospital.
What are the risks?
As with all surgery, there are risks involved. General risks from any surgery can include pain, bleeding or infection. Your consultant will be well informed about all of these and can talk you through them.
The side effects of cataract surgery are usually temporary. They can include:
• an itchy or sticky eye and blurry vision for a few days after the operation
• your eye may feel gritty for a few days
• your eye may look red for a few days
• a slight ache, which should pass after a few days
• bruising of the eyelid or eye, which will usually heal within a week
Ask your surgeon to explain in more detail how any risks apply to you.