Cataracts are small, cloudy patches that form in the eye’s clear natural (crystalline) lens and obstruct your vision. It occurs when proteins in the lens break down and clump together.
While cataracts may initially have little impact on your vision, they can develop as you age and start to interfere with your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities if left untreated. The only cure for a cataract comes through a surgical procedure.
Cataracts can interfere with both the level of vision and quality of vision. Some people might experience difficulty with driving, for example, or find that they struggle to read even with their glasses or contact lenses.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Cataracts can develop at different rates. In many patients they develop slowly, however this is not always the case. If over time, you find yourself experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is advisable that you make an appointment with your Optometrist.
- Decreased clarity of vision which can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.
- Increased sensitivity to light and glare around bright lights.
- Changes to your perception of colour as they appear faded or dull.
- Deteriorating night vision and difficulty seeing in poor or low light conditions.
If a cataract is detected your Optometrist will be able to refer you to the Lancashire Eye Centre for treatment, if required.
When should I have cataract surgery?
The development of cataracts can cause a range of symptoms to include blurred, cloudy or reduced quality of vision. These symptoms can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks such as driving and reading.
If you feel like cataracts are having an impact on your daily life, and are preventing or reducing your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, it might be time to consider cataract surgery.
If you have received a referral from the NHS, we can have your cataracts treated from as quickly as just 4 weeks.
How does cataract surgery work?
Cataract surgery is a straightforward and quick procedure that removes your cloudy lens from within your eye and replaces it with a new synthetic lens, often referred to as an intraocular lens (IOL). This new lens will significantly improve your vision, making it both clearer and brighter.
As the procedure generally takes between 15 to 20 minutes to perform and is carried out under local anaesthetic, which is administered using eye drops, you should be able to return home on the same day.
You should be able to go home on the same day as your cataract surgery.
You may have a pad and plastic shield over your treated eye when you leave hospital, which can usually be removed the day after surgery.
Feeling should start to return to your eye within a few hours of surgery, but it may take a few days for your vision to fully return.
It's normal to have:
- blurred vision
- double vision
- a red or bloodshot eye
These side effects usually improve within a few days, but it can take 4 to 6 weeks to recover fully.
If you need new glasses, you will not be able to order them until your eye has completely healed, usually after 6 weeks.
Cataract surgery has a high success rate in improving your eyesight and should allow you to return to your normal activities, like driving.
When to seek help
Contact your eye surgery department as soon as possible if you experience:
- increased pain and/or redness
- decreased vision
Dos and don'ts
For the first few weeks after surgery:
- use your eye drops as instructed
- take it easy for the first 2 to 3 days
- use your eye shield at night for at least a week
- take painkillers if you need to
- bathe or shower yourself as usual
- wear your eye shield when washing your hair
- read, watch TV and use a computer
- use your shield, old glasses or sunglasses outdoors
- avoid swimming for 4 to 6 weeks
- do not rub your eyes
- do not allow soap or shampoo to get into your eye
- do not drive until you get the all-clear from your doctor
- do not do any strenuous exercise or housework
- do not wear eye make-up for at least 4 weeks
- do not fly without seeking advice from your doctor
You could arrange for someone to help take care of you until your vision returns, particularly if the vision in your other eye is poor.
If you work, how soon you can return will largely depend on your type of job and if you need new glasses.
Using your eye drops
Before you leave hospital, you'll be given some eye drops to help your eye heal and prevent infection.
It's important to use your eye drops as instructed by your doctor.
Unless told otherwise, you should:
- start your drops the morning after the operation
- only use them on an operated eye
- wash your hands before using your drops
- do not stop your eye drops without advice from your doctor
- do not let anyone else use your eye drops
You'll be advised further about the use of eye drops at your follow-up appointment, usually 1 to 4 weeks after your operation.
At this appointment, you may be given advice on when to stop using your eye drops and when to apply for new glasses.
How to apply eye drops
- Wash your hands.
- Tilt your head back.
- Look up at the ceiling.
- Gently pull down the lower eyelid.
- Squeeze the bottle until a drop goes into your eye.
- Close your eye and wipe away any excess liquid.
- Do not let the bottle touch the eye.
- Safely dispose of the drops once you have finished your course of treatment.
How to clean your eye
- Boil some water and allow it to cool.
- Wash your hands.
- Dip cotton wool or clean gauze in the cool boiled water.
- Gently wipe from the inside (near your nose) to the outside corner of your eye.
- Do not wipe inside your eye.
- Do not wash your eye out with water.
- Do not press on your eye.
During the first 2 weeks, you may need to clean your eye twice a day because the drops and the healing process can cause slight stickiness.
Are there any risks involved?
Cataract surgery is the most common operation performed in the UK, and has a high success rate in improving your eyesight.
While cataract surgery carries risks like all other surgical procedures, the incidence of a serious complication developing as a result of the procedure is very low.
Though developments in modern medicine, many symptoms today, in the event they present, can be treated easily and overcome through the use of eye medications.
How do I get started?
If you suspect that you might have cataracts and feel that they are drastically reducing your quality of vision and consequent quality of life, you should make an appointment with your Optometrist or GP.
They will be able to make arrangements for your treatment and can provide you with a referral, where we can have your cataracts treated from as quickly as just 4 weeks.