A cataract occurs when the protein structure within the lens of the eye deteriorates, resulting in clouding of the vision. It is most likely to occur in people aged over 60 years. However, there are many causes of cataracts including trauma, therapeutic drugs and of course it is possible to be born with cataracts (congenital cataracts).
Surgery to correct the condition is the most common ophthalmic procedure performed in the world today and 99% of patients experience successful results. The surgeon removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with a synthetic lens called an intraocular lens (IOL).
Advances in IOLs have led to a range of lens options for vision correction that can reduce dependency on glasses for both near and far after the surgery.
Cataract surgery involves making a tiny incision in the cornea followed by a small opening in the anterior surface of the lens (capsule). Ultrasound is used to break up the cloudy lens and fragments of the lens are vacuumed out. An intraocular lens (IOL) is then inserted into the capsular bag. Most IOLs are foldable and can be inserted through the same small incision used to perform the cataract surgery. They are then allowed to unfold within the lens capsule in the eye.
The procedure is usually performed in a day surgery and it takes approximately 45 minutes. However, patients usually remain at the centre for two to three hours.
Dr Hughes offers his patients two forms of cataract surgery. One uses a diamond blade and the other uses femtosecond laser technology. Diamond blade technology uses a diamond knife to create the corneal incisions. The opening of the cataract is done manually with a cystotome and the lens is removed with ultrasound.
With laser-assisted cataract surgery, precise corneal incisions are made using a femtosecond laser beam. The laser also performs the opening into the lens capsule and division of the central hard seed of the cataract (nucleus).