A cataract is a clouding or opacification of the natural lens in the eye that causes visual impairment. The development of cataract is a common part of the aging process. As a cataract progresses,it further scatters and blocks light entering the eye, causing a progressive deterioration of vision.
Many people mistakenly think a cataract is like a “skin” growing over the surface of the eye, whereas it is actually opacification of the natural lens inside the eye.
Common symptoms of cataracts can include worsening glare, difficulty reading and impaired computer and distance vision. Driving at night can be particularly difficult.
The images below simulate what a person might see with normal vision compared to a person with moderate of advanced cataract.
Cataracts are more common with increasing age, especially in those over the age of 60 years. Risk factors for developing cataracts at a young age include diabetes, certain medications, previous ocular inflammation and previous eye trauma/surgery.
Cataract surgery is a common and generally very safe operation, with usually excellent visual results. It is performed as a day surgery operation in most cases, and normally takes 20-30 minutes for the operation itself. Our surgeons perform cataract surgery at private day surgeries in Randwick, Chatswood and Epping as well as public hospital surgery at Westmead Hospital and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
Cataract surgery is usually an elective operation, and the need for surgery depends on when the lens opacity becomes visually significant. This is usually when a patient is having difficulty with their vision for certain activities (eg. reading, computer, driving, hobbies). The mere presence of a cataract does not necessarily mean that it needs to be removed, and there are many instances that it can be safely monitored for several years until a patient chooses to have an operation.
There are two main methods that our surgeons use for cataract surgery removal:
1. Modern phacoemulsification cataract surgery – this is an excellent method of cataract removal, in which an ultrasonic probe fragments the cataract into smaller pieces, which can then be removed by aspiration from the eye. Fluid irrigation continuously maintains the structure of the eye during the surgery.
It is possible to tailor your surgery to give you a greater amount of spectacle independence after cataract surgery. This can be done by a variety of methods, which our surgeons are happy to discuss with you prior to surgery.
It is important to remember that despite the high success rates of modern cataract surgery, all operations carry some risks. Our specialists will discuss this further with you and answer any questions you may have.
2. Laser-assisted cataract surgery – this is a newer variation to modern cataract surgery, in which a femotosecond laser is used to make the circular opening in the anterior capsular bag surrounding the cataract, as well as to fragment the lens into smaller pieces. The laser can also be used to make the openings into the eye to allow the surgery to be performed without the use of a surgical blade. Both methods of surgery typically produce excellent results. In both methods, intraocular lenses (IOLs) are inserted into the eye to focus light on the retina. Using our sophisticated equipment and preoperative calculations, we can predict with a high degree of certainty the post-operative refraction, and customise the outcome for each patient.