Cataracts are the development of cloudy patches on the lens of the eye. They usually develop with age, and the majority of patients diagnosed are over 65 years old₁.
The lens of the eye is a clear transparent disc that sits in a lens capsule behind the pupil. The lens focuses light on the retina at the back of the eye. Helping you see clearly. When cataracts grow, less light can pass through the lens and vision deteriorates.
Symptoms are not apparent at first and can go unnoticed for a long time before they’re picked up. They’re usually first noticed at a routine eye check, which is why it’s essential to attend regular eye appointments. Over the years, cataracts will gradually get worse, and so too vision. If left untreated cataracts can lead to blindness.
Symptoms to be aware of include:
- Cloudy, blurred, dim vision
- Difficulty with a glare at night
- Sensitivity to light
- ‘Halos’ around lights
- Frequent changes in prescription
- Fading or yellowing of colours
- Double vision in a single eye
Although it is less common, cataracts can develop at any age and can be caused by:
- Radiotherapy treatment
- Exposure to excessive UV light
- Steroid use
Cataracts can affect one or both eyes. The only way to treat the condition is through cataract surgery. Typically keyhole surgery conducted by a surgeon replaces the original lens with a new artificial one. The surgery is a simple, quick routine operation that can restore sight. If you have cataracts in both eyes, one eye will be operated on at a time to allow time for recovery.
How Long Does A Cataract Operation Take?
Cataract surgery is a simple and straightforward operation that takes less than 45 minutes to perform₁. Patients are usually able to go home on the same day₂.
Usually, patients are given a local anaesthetic via eye drops or an injection. A tiny cut is made to the front of the eye and using keyhole surgery ultrasound waves are used to break-up the cloudy lens. The cataract damaged lens is then removed through a small tube. The tiny cut in the lens capsule is used to insert a new artificial lens.
How Long Will It Take To Recover?
The initial bruising and soreness will improve after a few days₁. But it will likely take a few weeks for your eye to completely heal from surgery₂. Your doctor will give you information about suitable painkillers to relieve any discomfort in the meantime.
As with all types of surgery, care after the operation is a vital part of the procedure. You can improve the time it takes to heal and the outcome of your surgery by following the advice of your doctor. We’ve compiled the top aftercare dos and don’ts:
Do-Follow Professional Advice
Typically you’ll be prescribed painkillers and eye drops to aid and improve your recovery. Make sure you use them as prescribed, and take the time to administer the eye drops. Antibiotic eye drops help to prevent infection. Anti-inflammatory eye drops help to reduce any internal inflammation. Use the prescriptions precisely as prescribed to ensure recovery success.
Cataract surgery is simple and straightforward. The quick operation may fool you into thinking you can get back on your feet immediately. Nonetheless, you’ve undergone an operation on your eye, and you need to make sure you rest. Avoid driving on the first day after surgery. Resist heavy lifting or strenuous activities for a few weeks. It will all have to wait. Enjoy the opportunity to take it easy for a while!
Do Use Protection
After your surgery, you’ll be wearing an eye shield and provided with sunglasses to protect your eye. It must stay protected from potential irritants; like bright light, wind, grime and dust. Use the sunglasses immediately after the operation until sensitivity to light has worn off. Wear the protective shield over your eye at night and any time you nap for at least a week post-operation₃. Taking these precautionary measures will limit the risk of infection and aid your recovery.
Don’t Suffer In Silence
You must contact your doctor immediately if your symptoms get worse. If you experience severe pain, loss of vision, blurred vision or redness of the eye, do not hesitate to seek professional advice. If your doctor is unavailable, go to your local A&E department and inform them you recently had a cataract operation. Speak up and get professional help if your symptoms do not improve. In these circumstances, it’s better to be cautious.
Don’t Use Products
Your eye needs to be given the best chance of recovery. Leave the make-up, soaps and cosmetics on the shelf whilst your eye heals. If these products make contact with your eye before it fully recovers you risk the chance of infection. It’s not worth the risk.
We’re all unique. The time it takes for your body to recover will depend on your personal circumstances and health. Try not to compare your recovery with someone else’s. Full recovery periods vary widely from anywhere between 4-6 weeks₂. Be patient and give your body the time it needs to recover properly.