A cataract occurs when the clear lens of the eye gradually becomes cloudy. This is most frequently caused by the ageing process – the proteins in the lens degrade over time, clumping together to cause the vision to blur.
Other (more rare) causes of a cataract include trauma to the eye, a result of another medical disorder such as diabetes, exposure to radiation or use of corticosteroids. Cataracts can also be present at birth: this is called a congenital cataract. Untreated, a cataract can lead to blindness.
In the early stages, some cataracts can be left untreated. When your deteriorating vision begins to interfere with your work or lifestyle, it’s time to consider cataract surgery. But how much does cataract surgery cost? Find out here!
Cataract surgery has progressed enormously over the past few decades. In 99% of cases, modern cataract surgery results in a good outcome.
Most people will be slightly sedated but awake during surgery, although they often don’t remember any of the procedure happening. The majority will be in and out of the theatre or day clinic within 3 hours. To find out more, click here.
While there may be some variation, vision usually recovers within days but is not stable for about a month. Report any significant reduction in vision to your surgeon if this occurs. The protective shield is usually worn for the first day. Sometimes the surgeon may recommend the shield be used at night for a few days especially is eye rubbing is an issue. The post operative care involves the use of antibiotic and anti inflammatory drops. You will need to follow the recommended use for these drops. Drops should not be “shared” between eyes. If you have had a previous allergy reaction to eye drops let your surgeon know. Everyone is different – most people will see remarkably well within a few days and fully recover in around a month.
Your doctor will be able to help you determine when the second eye can be operated on. Although it varies, most surgery is around two weeks apart. In the case of multifocal implants, early second eye surgery hastens the recovery. Multifocal patients benefit from both eyes being operated on as it is common that the old spectacles are now unbalanced. During the period between surgeries, a contact lens may be used to balance the eye that has not yet been operated on.
No. Your eye will be prepared with numbing drops and you will be given a sedative to relax. While it’s completely normal to worry about it beforehand, people are amazed afterwards that they didn’t feel a thing. Some people even doze off during surgery.
You won’t. Your surgeon will ensure that your eyelid is gently held open throughout the procedure.
Probably, but not necessarily. No matter what, you’ll be so relaxed that you won’t be in any way uncomfortable.
You may observe a bit of light and some vague movement – you may even see nothing at all – but rest assured there won’t be anything that’s frightening.
The lens of your eye acts very much like the lens of a camera, focusing on objects in the distance and then seamlessly readjusting to read the small print of a paper in your hand. A young, healthy lens will do all of this on demand.
Because a cataract involves the natural lens of the eye turning cloudy and hard, it’s no longer of use to you because everything looks out of focus and you see through a white ‘haze’ or “fog”. In fact, a cataract can eventually make a person legally blind.
The aim of cataract surgery is to take out the ineffective lens and replace it with a brand new lens made of a soft, flexible plastic material.
Today there are many types of artificial lenses, all manufactured for a specific visual outcome – some are designed for excellent near vision, some for clear distance vision and others for vision at all distances (albeit with a few compromises – see ‘what is a trifocal lens?’).
The great thing about cataract surgery today is that there are so many options. That’s because specialist companies are developing more and more types of artificial lenses. Your surgeon will take you through the options to help you decide which lens (also called an intraocular lens) is to be used to replace your natural lens of the eye.
For example, if you’re sick of having to whip out your reading glasses, you may wish to have your vision tailored in order to reduce or eliminate the need for them.
If you don’t mind using reading glasses but hate wearing glasses fulltime to go about your day, you may want your vision adjusted so that you only need those glasses to see small print.
Today, tailored vision has never been more flexible – there are now trifocal lenses that can help your near, middle and distance vision.
A trifocal lens is a new and extremely exciting development in lens technology.
For many decades the only artificial lens used by surgeons was monofocal – that is, built for clear vision at one distance only – in other words, most patients had excellent distance vision but required reading glasses.
Bifocal lenses (multifocal lenses) were then developed to provide quality vision at a variety of distances. There may be some sort of compromise involved, however many people have been happy with the result of this lens.
A trifocal lens can provide clarity at the three main points of focus (near, middle and distance vision). Again there may be some compromises – most likely one of your points of focus will be superior to the others – which is why a trifocal lens isn’t for everyone. You can discuss the pros and cons with your surgeon.
Until recently there was no artificial lens able to correct astigmatism. Toric lenses were developed for just that.
Remembering that IOL stands for intraocular lens, this term refers to the more sophisticated lens technology that corrects your vision to a superior standard by taking into account the exact shape of your eyes and your visual demands. Trifocal lenses are a good example of a premium IOL.
Laser cataract surgery involves using laser technology to perform the first three steps of cataract surgery. The technology involves a substantial investment so not all clinics or day surgeries offer the ability to perform laser cataract surgery yet, but more and more cataract surgeons around the world are gradually using it. Learn more.
A typical procedure will see you in and out of surgery between 30 and 45 minutes. You’ll only be in the clinic or day surgery for around 3 hours before you’ll be discharged and sent home with your carer (you won’t be allowed to drive).
You may feel a bit of discomfort a few hours after surgery but no pain.
Most surgeons want to give your first eye a chance to settle to plan the lens for the second eye. It’s rare for two eyes to have exactly the same focus – they need to work together to produce proper vision. So it makes sense to plan the second eye once it’s clear how the first eye settles down.
Initially after surgery, your visual judgement will be unreliable and so driving wouldn’t be advisable. Please don’t drive until the eye has settled down, which may take a few days.
A proportion of the cost will be covered by Medicare (and your health fund).
Normal daily activities such as light housework can be resumed within a couple of days. Check with your doctor if you plan to play contact sports.
Cataract surgery is one of the most successful procedures in medicine, so the risk factor is relatively minimal. However, as with any surgery, complications can occur which are related to the procedure itself or the anaesthesia. These can vary from mild to more serious. Despite medical advances, there is around a 1 in 1000 risk of complications which could permanently impair vision the vision.
Naturally, your doctor will outline both the risks and benefits of the surgery in detail, so a fully informed decision can be made. Again, it’s worth considering that if your eyes are healthy, 99% of people achieve a good result. For more information on the benefits of cataract surgery, click here.