Cataract refers to clouding of the lens inside the eye, causing cataract symptoms like vision loss in some cases. Cataract is a common condition among the elderly and there are about 20 lakhs new cases in India every year.
Contrary to popular belief, having a cataract does not always mean a cataract surgery is indicated. A lot of times, people may not even notice any vision loss and many of these conditions are dealt with the help of using prescription glasses, magnifying glasses and bright lighting.
With progression of condition, cataract symptoms worsen and start to interfere with one’s daily activities. Common cataract symptoms include dimmed or blurred vision, double vision, poor night vision and sensitivity to glare. Cataract symptoms can feel like looking through a foggy or dusty windshield where things may look blurry, hazy or less colorful.
When it starts to interfere with tasks like using the computer, reading, driving, doing household chores or watching television is when a cataract operation should be considered.
Cataract surgery includes replacing the eye’s natural lens with an artificial one, called the intraocular lens (IOL). Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, takes an hour or less to perform. The procedure is performed while you are awake, but with numbing eye drops making the cataract operation essentially painless. First, eye drops are placed to both anaesthetise and dilate the pupil. A mild sedative may also be given to keep you relaxed during the surgery. During a cataract operation, the clouded lens is removed, and a clear artificial lens is usually implanted. However, in some cases, a cataract may be removed without implanting an artificial lens.
Why is cataract surgery required?
Cataracts are a normal part of ageing and cataract surgery helps to stop any further damage in your eye. Cataracts are developed gradually among people that play out in the coming years. Your eye’s lenses turn less clear, less tough and turn thicker in shape. Once you hit the age of 80, half of the population experience cataract. Our eyes are known to weaken with time and cataract is one such consequence.
Though it's normal to develop, it’s quite challenging to handle over the years. You’ll experience the adverse effects of cataracts compared to other age-related eye conditions. In the initial stage of cataract, you experience nearsightedness, which is easily resolved using reading or varifocal glasses. But as the time goes on, cataracts turn more severe and your night vision will deteriorate and colours around you would appear dull and uninspired. Whenever there’s a change in the vision, getting your eye examined is a smart choice. Unfortunately, cataract symptoms or changes are very subtle and rarely spotted on the surface until your sight is completely affected and there’s not much to do anymore. Ophthalmologists all over the work emphasise on the importance of annual eye examination, that help to not only detect cataracts but also other eye diseases such as glaucoma. A comprehensive eye test involves checking your vision sharpness and clarity through running some tests and having your identified symbols and letters on a chart placed little far away.
The ophthalmologist may also dilate your pupils to inspect any changes in the interior of the eyes. By the use of a slit lamp, they can discover chances in the small area inside the eye to identify any signs of cataract by checking how clouded the area is in your eyes. Eye tests not only help to spot cataracts but also other eye conditions like glaucoma and retinal degeneration.
If you notice drastic changes in your eyes, waiting on it would result in harm hence going for cataract surgery is considered the most effective solution.
What’s involved in cataract surgery?
With the advent of modern technologies, cataract surgery has become a fast, easy and relatively low risk procedure. It can help restore lost vision and can often reduce one’s dependence on glasses as well.
After the cataract operation, you will be prescribed medicated eye drops to use for a few weeks after cataract surgery and protective eye shield to wear while sleeping for about a week after surgery. You will also be given a special pair of post-operative sunglasses to protect your eyes from sunlight. Take care to avoid getting soap or water directly in the eye.
Why do we need lens replacement in cataract surgery?
A cataract is caused by clouded lenses in the eyes, so cataract surgery involves removal and replacement of the lens to secure vision-clarity. As the cataract progresses and worsens over time, most of us are confused about when’s the right time to undergo the procedure. Going for immediate cataract surgery after finding out you’ve cataracts is not a well-thought solution. You must rush for immediate surgery, as a cataract in its starting stage is not threatening or troublesome to your eyes or vision.
The right time for cataract surgery is once you experience vision problems as the result of cataract. If there’s no such issue or impacts on your eye or lifestyle then you can delay cataract surgery for a while as long as you have better vision. However, don’t wait for extreme change or damage in your eyes where you can’t at all spot anything. But if you also undergo other visual diseases like age-related macular degeneration then you must consider cataract surgery as soon as possible.
If you have cataracts in both eyes, the surgery would be primarily conducted on the ones with high severity and dense condition. If you are nearsighted or far-sighted, considering cataract surgery in both eyes is considered. You’ll also need to undergo second surgery within a month or so to escape problems from the first surgery such as double vision and depth perception.
What are the risks of cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery involves a few complications, which can also be treated and temporary issues. Take a look at the most common cataract surgery risks:
- Retinal detachment
- Dislocation of artificial lens
- Vision loss
- Secondary cataract
- Drooping eyelid
Cataract surgery complications can be extremely severe if you have other eye disease and medical conditions priorly.
How to prepare before cataract surgery?
Food and medicines
Before undergoing cataract surgery, you aren’t allowed to eat or drink anything before 12 hours. Even the use of medications is temporarily disbanded by ophthalmologists as it can increase the chances of bleeding during the surgery. So you must inform your eye doctor before you take any medication for serious problems as many medicines can interfere and react intensely with cataract surgery. Antibiotic eye drops are often prescribed before the surgery for one or two days.
Once the cataract treatment is done, you’ll be back to action after an hour. So normally, you’ll head home after the treatment but your eyes would be covered so you’ll need someone assistance for driving you back home. Even at home, you won’t be able to see anything yet so you’ll need help around the home. You’ll need help with cooking, taking you to the bathroom and other normal stuff we do at our homes.
Recovery in cataract surgery
Post cataract surgery, you’ll spend a few hours in the recovery room as soon as the effects of anaesthesia fade away. Your eyes would be covered with a bandage to protect and shelter it after the treatment and you’ll need some to get home.
Once you revive back to your normal days, don’t forget to ward off any infection from your eyes. Use the prescribed eye drops frequently in a day to keep water out of your eyes. There won’t be any problem with doing normal chores of your day but avoid heavy work like jogging, lifting or exercise which can damage the new lenses. You can watch TV or computer post-surgery but for a limited hour, starting too much and not blinking can be hurtful.
During your healing period, one might experience some redness and blurred vision soon after the procedure. Care should be taken to avoid strenuous activities, exercising, sports and driving in the first week after your surgery. Additional help in the form of a caretaker may be required in most cases as one would be unable to get back to their daily life immediately after the surgery.
Cataract Surgery FAQS
We know you’ve got questions. Here are the answer to most frequently asked question about cataract surgery:
Q 1. Is cataract surgery painful?
Ans. No! Cataract surgery is not painful at all, you might experience mild discomfort but that's all.
Q 2. Is cataract surgery painful afterwards?
Ans. During cataract surgery, there’s little to no pain experienced in the eyes by patients. However, once the effects of anaesthesia wear off, you can experience very mild numbness as well as itchy or irritated eyes.
Q 3. Why does cataract surgery improve vision?
Ans. Cataract surgery involves implanting intraocular lenses (IOLs) which are replaced with the eye's natural lenses that are highly successful in restoring standard vision.
Q 4: Will cataract surgery correct nearsightedness?
Ans. Cataract surgery is considered majorly effective in correcting refractive error. With new lens implants, you can correct all types of refractive eye conditions like myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness) and even astigmatism.
Emoha Elder Care offers at home skilled nurses and caretakers to look after your post recovery needs like timely medication and assistance with other tasks. With Emoha’s help, find your recovery in the right hands.