Cataract surgery is one of the oldest surgical procedures recorded, and over the years technological advances have made it one of the safest and most frequently performed procedures worldwide.
Whilst the NHS offers an excellent service for cataract surgery, there is rarely an option for choosing your intra-ocular lens, meaning that glasses will almost certainly be required after surgery. The decision to undergo private cataract surgery offers the opportunity to correct common vision problems, including short-sight, long-sight, presbyopia and astigmatism, to reduce your dependence on glasses or contact lenses permanently.
There are several designs of intra-ocular lenses (IOLs) available, each having their own strengths in performance. The choice of lens has a major influence on the outcome of surgery and whether glasses would be required after surgery.
Mr Anandan specialises in cataract surgery and has performed several thousand-cataract procedures, particularly for patients with high spectacle corrections, complex cataracts and following other types of refractive surgery.
What is cataract surgery?
Your eye’s natural lens sits behind the iris and pupil and works similarly to a camera lens. This natural crystalline lens of the eye is clear and is primarily responsible for focusing light on the retina. Any clouding of the natural lens is called a cataract. Cataracts cause blurry vision that affects the person’s ability to see clearly and function effectively.
Cataract surgery involves the removal of the cloudy natural lens of the eye (the cataract) and replacing it with a carefully selected intra-ocular lens (IOL). The purpose of the operation is to replace the cloudy lens (cataract) with a plastic lens (implant) inside your eye.
Benefits for you
One of the greatest benefits of cataract surgery is the increased quality of life. Many research studies show that cataract surgery has many lifestyle benefits – for reading, working, driving, playing sport and so on.
In addition, studies show other advantages of cataract surgery which include:
- More independence
- Improved self-confidence
- Better mental health
- A reduction in falls
- A greater enjoyment of social activities and passions and hobbies
- As you can imagine, improved vision immeasurably enhances overall life satisfaction and enjoyment
Am I suitable for cataract surgery?
Book a consultation with one of our leading ophthalmic surgeon Mr M Anandan to determine whether cataract surgery could be right for you. He will run a detailed assessment to help you find the best course of treatment.
From colours appearing faded to problems with bright lights, there are a number of cataract symptoms to be aware of. If you notice any of them, you should book an appointment as soon as possible. Cataracts will get gradually worse as time passes, so there is no need to wait.
You are likely to be accepted for cataract surgery if your eyes are generally in good shape and you do not have any other type of serious eye condition that impacts your vision. However, the only way to know for sure if you are a suitable candidate for cataract surgery is to book an appointment.
Cataract surgery is usually carried out under a local anaesthetic. With a local anaesthetic you will be awake during the operation. You will not be able to see what is happening, but you will be aware of a bright light. Just before the operation you will be given eye insert/drops to enlarge the pupil. After this, you will be given an anaesthetic to numb the eye.
This may consist simply of eye-drops or may involve the injection of local anaesthetic solution into the tissue surrounding the eye. During the operation you will be asked to keep your head still, and lie as flat as possible. The operation normally takes 15-20 minutes, but may take up to 45 minutes. A nurse can hold your hand the whole time to make sure that you are all right. Most cataracts are removed by a technique called phacoemulsification. A small cut is made in the eye; the lens is softened with sound waves and removed through a small tube. The back layer of the lens is left behind. An artificial lens (implant) is then inserted to replace the cataract.
Cataract surgery typically is performed on an outpatient basis and does not require an overnight stay in a hospital or other care facility.
There are a few things you should do prior to the day of your cataract surgery:
- Arrange for a ride to and from surgery
- Don’t drink alcoholic beverages for at least 24 hours prior to surgery
- Shower and wash your hair to help maintain a clean surgical environment
- Do not apply makeup
- Please take all your scheduled regular medications unless advised by the surgeon not to take it. If in doubt bring these with you and ask your surgeon when you should take them
When you arrive on the day of your procedure, the nursing staff will check you in and help you get ready.
In modern cataract surgery, the cloudy lens inside your eye will be removed using a high-frequency ultrasound device that breaks it up into small pieces that are then gently removed with suction. This is called phacoemulsification.
After all remnants of the cloudy lens have been removed, the surgeon will insert the IOL that you chose prior to surgery. In most cases, no stitches are required after surgery because the incisions are so small.
Cataract surgery typically takes less than 10-15 minutes, though you may be at the surgery center for a total of two to three hours.
Cataract surgery is considered a relatively straightforward day surgery procedure, with patients returning home within several hours of the operation.
Before you leave the day surgery, you will be prescribed eye drops or other medication to prevent infection and reduce inflammation. You will need to have a family member or friend with you to take you home. Once you get home, it is recommended that you rest your eyes and nap. Several hours post surgery, most people are able to watch some television or look at a computer screen for a short period of time. Because cataract surgery is only performed on one eye at a time, you may notice an imbalance in your vision until the second eye is operated on (from 2–3 weeks later).
It is normal for vision to be blurry in the beginning – your eye needs to heal and adjust. Vision will normally begin to improve within a few days of the surgery. It’s also normal for your eye to feel itchy and to experience mild discomfort for a couple of days – you will be asked to wear an eye patch or protective shield at night to ensure you don’t rub your eye while you sleep. This discomfort should disappear after a few days.
While everyone is different, the average experience for the weeks following cataract surgery involves a gradual recovery of the eye. Adjustments in vision will occur for a few months after surgery.
Although most people can resume everyday activities 24 hours after cataract surgery, there are a few instructions that you will be asked to follow. They include:
- Don’t do any strenuous activities for a few weeks. Avoid rigorous exercise and heavy lifting.
- Don’t drive. The length of time after cataract surgery before you can drive depends on a number of factors – your doctor will tell you when it is safe to resume driving.
- Follow your doctor’s orders regarding any antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops. These are important to prevent infection and inflammation and ensure proper healing. If you have difficulty in administering them, get a friend or family member to help you out.
- Stay away from dusty areas. It’s a great idea to have your house vacuumed and cleaned before surgery, as your eyes will be sensitive to airborne allergens such as dust.
- Don’t rub your eye. Eye rubbing is a quick way to develop a nasty infection. It’s never a good idea, even when you aren’t recovering from surgery.
- Don’t swim. It’s best to avoid swimming or hot tubs for a week after surgery.
- Don’t wear make-up. Ask your doctor when you can resume doing so.