” The most frequently performed surgical procedure around the world is cataract surgery. It’s also the most successful: 98% of people can expect an outstanding result following surgery. “
Below: Dr Lewis Levitz on intraocular lenses and Prof Rasik Vajpayee on cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery is, in fact, an intricate form of microsurgery* that is usually performed in a day surgery or hospital. It involves local anaesthetic and the anaesthetist will also ensure that a patient is relaxed before entering surgery (many patients will actually doze off during the procedure).
Once in theatre, there are several steps involved in the procedure:
You will have been given instructions on fasting (no food or drink for 6 hours prior to the surgery is the usual requirement). You will also be asked not to apply any make-up, lotions or nail polish, and wear comfortable clothes.
If you have any underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes, your doctor will give you specific instructions. As a rule, you may continue all regular medications including anticoagulants such as Warfarin and aspirin.
The actual operation itself takes less than 30 minutes. Much of this time involves preparing the eye with drops in order to ensure that the eye is numb and the pupil is enlarged prior to the operation. Time is also required to recover if any anaesthetic drugs have been used.
You’ll spend around 2 hours in the clinic or hospital, including resting time. It is important to remember that you won’t be able to drive, so you will be required to have someone accompany you home.
You’ll be happy to know there are many advantages that you’ll appreciate in your everyday life. For example, many people who have cataract surgery find that they no longer need to wear glasses. Some find they don’t need glasses to read, or have to wear glasses for distance vision. All find that they can reduce their dependency on glasses.
This means that before going ahead with the procedure, you will need to discuss your options with your doctor, to decide what kind of lens would best suit your lifestyle.
For people who spend a lot of time reading, sewing or working on a computer, your ophthalmologist might recommend a lens that works best for near vision. Others who play sport, or drive a great deal, might choose a lens that mostly improves distances vision. A third option that is suitable for some people (but not all) is a multifocal lens that has the potential to adjust both near and far vision.
Like bifocal glasses, some people adjust to this lens more easily than others. Overall, it’s a matter of deciding what will be most suitable for you. For the vast majority of people, cataract surgery will vastly improve your overall vision, but some might need to wear reading glasses. There’s no one answer for everyone – it’s usually a matter of deciding what will suit your lifestyle most.
For millions of cataract patients, the most obvious benefit is that they can enjoy quality of vision again – a little like turning the clock back. Most noticeable will be that colours are brighter, images are sharper, and objects that were hard to see before surgery are back in focus again. Many comment that they suffer less from the glare of the sun or from headlights at night.
While the improvements depend on the individual, many research studies show that cataract surgery has many lifestyle benefits – for reading, working, driving, playing sport and so on.
However, the research also indicates that other advantages include more independence, improved self-confidence, better mental health, safety, a reduction in falls, a longer life expectancy and a greater enjoyment of social activities and passions like hobbies, sport, walking, driving etc. Improved vision immeasurably enhances overall life satisfaction and enjoyment.
Importantly, there is no age at which we are “too old” to have cataract surgery as the visual benefits can be of value regardless of age. Cataract surgery has been shown to be of value in those with other disabilities such as deafness and early dementia.