What is a cataract?
A cataract is when the natural lens of the eye which focuses light on the retina, looses its clarity and begins to interfere with the vision. There are various degrees of cataract which can cause symptoms, ranging from mild glare and difficulties in following a golf ball on the fairway to significant loss of vision leading to inability to drive or walk safely. Everybody will get some degree of cataract if they live long enough but developments in surgical technology have made treatment of cataract an extremely safe and effective.
Restoring Vision – Cataract Surgery
Once a visually significant cataract has formed, surgery is required to restore the vision. This is usually done as a day case procedure with local anaesthetic eye drops and no need for any injections around the eye. The procedure takes approximately 30 minutes and uses ultrasound technology to remove the cataract. An acrylic (plastic) intraocular lens is then inserted in place of the cataract which is custom made to each eye to restore the vision. After the surgery eye drops are used for approximately 4 weeks and as no sutures (stiches) are used, the vision usually improved within days of surgery. Most people will choose to have clear distance vision after surgery but still require glasses for reading.
Advances in Intraocular Lens (IOL) Technology
There have been many recent advances in intraocular lens (IOL) technology with the introduction of folding IOL’s, Aspheric IOL’s, Toric IOL’s, filtering IOL’s etc and your surgeon will guide you to the most suitable to your visual requirements.
Having decided you have a visually significant cataract, it is essential to have a thorough assessment to establish your needs and requirements.
a) The Health of your eye: For successful cataract surgery, pre-existing problems need to be identified and addressed to ensure good results. Your consultant will be able to fully examine you eye and check the health of your eye.
b) Your needs: while cataract surgery has an excellent track record for predictable results, it may not be able to deliver all you want. Careful assessment of all your visual needs is important to avoid disappointment.
c) Your measurements: Using the latest technology, including refraction and biometry, we can advise you on the most suitable IOL for your needs.
On the day
Although the cataract surgery only takes about 30 minutes, you should allow a day for the procedure. When you come in, you will have the opportunity to ask your consultant any remaining questions you may still have.
Some people will be given a sedative tablet before the procedure you to help you relax. You can eat and drink normally before coming to hospital, but you should not wear ANY eye or facial make up or cosmetics. We strongly recommend that you bring someone with you on the day as you will be unable to drive yourself home.
The success of your surgery depends on a number of factors including your surgeon, the IOL and your post operative care. We take all necessary steps to get excellent results, but it is very important that you follow the post operative instructions. We will give you an eye shield after the procedure for your comfort and to prevent any complications. You will be given some eye drops to prevent infection and inflammation that you should use as prescribed. These drops are usually used for about 4 weeks.
Your health and well being is our number one priority and we go to great lengths to make sure you have access to the best possible follow up care. You will therefore be given appointments to be seen with a day or two and again after 1 month. Sometimes you will be offered more appointments to ensure the best visual outcome.
The Cost of Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is covered by all the health insurance companies (VHI, Quinn, Aviva, etc) but some plans have an excess on the policy. If you don’t have health insurance, please enquire about the costs at your pre operative consultation.
Is the treatment painful?
No. However you will feel some discomfort during your surgery and your eyes may be slightly gritty and watery for a few hours after the procedure.
What vision can I expect?
While the results vary from patient to patient, most people have good vision the day after surgery and it then improves, giving you the best vision within one month.
Will I ever need glasses?
People use glasses for many reasons and while cataract surgery can correct your refractive error, it cannot prevent your eyes from aging. It is therefore likely you will need glasses for some things e.g.: reading or driving at night.
When can I return to work?
Depending on your job, you need to take anything from 2 to 7 days off work. You should avoid dusty and windy environments for a few weeks after the treatment.
How safe is Cataract Surgery?
While cataract surgery has an excellent track record of safety, all medical procedures have risks. Some of these, like sore eyes or glare are usually short lived and resolve, however, others, like an infection, are potentially serious and may result in long term reduced vision. Fortunately, such complications are very rare.