Cataract surgery – who needs it?

A look into the causes of cataracts

An estimated 2.5 million people aged 65 and over have some degree of visual impairment from cataracts in England and Wales. Cataracts are a very common condition, mostly caused by age alone (although they can be caused by other factors).

Mild cataracts don’t require anything more than glasses or contact lenses, but more severe cataracts require surgery. The good news is that the surgery is simple, with very low complication rates.

If you’re aged 50 or over and have problems with vision, you may well have a cataract.

What is a cataract?

Let’s start with what a cataract actually is. To use the NHS definition: “Cataracts are cloudy patches that develop in the lens of your eye and can cause blurred or misty vision.”

Although you can be born with them, most cataracts develop over time, so it may be a while before you notice any problems. The most common symptom is cloudy vision – possibly even in patches – but you may also experience symptoms such as:

  • difficulty seeing in dim or very bright light
  • discomfort from the glare of bright lights
  • faded colours
  • everything having a yellow or brown tinge
  • double vision
  • seeing a ‘halo’ of bright light around bright lights
  • finding your glasses less effective over time

What does the surgery entail?

Cataract surgery is a relatively simple procedure with a complication rate lower than 2%. It’s usually done as an outpatient procedure with a local anesthetic meaning you can go home the same day.

The goal is to replace the lens with an artificial lens. The most common method – phacoemulsification or small-incision surgery – is to make a small incision in the eye and use ultrasound to fragment the lens, using suction to remove it. It is then replaced with an intraocular lens implant (IOL), the strength and focus of which will be decided on beforehand with your opthamologist. Depending on the implant, you may not need to use glasses or contacts after the surgery, but in most cases you will still need reading glasses.

The procedure usually takes 25-30 minutes.

How do I know if I need cataract surgery?

The general recommendation is that surgery should be considered once your impaired vision begins to affect your daily life – usually described as affecting your ability to read, drive or look after someone in your care. As soon as the cataracts have a noticeable affect in this way, you should be able to get cataract surgery on the NHS. Although surgery can be performed beforehand, the Royal College of Opthalmologists recommends against it.

Of course, any decision should be made in consultation with your optician. If you suspect you may have cataracts, you should make an appointment and talk it through with them.

Find out more

If you would like to find out more about cataracts surgery or any of the other vision correction treatments on offer at Advanced Vision Care, then why not call AVC TODAY on 0800 652 4878 and request your free information pack or book your consultation to find out how we can help you.

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