Cataracts

At ACES our aim is to provide timely ophthalmic care of the highest standards in a community setting that is accessible, convenient and comfortable for our patients without the requirement of hospital admission. 

We aim to treat patients within four weeks following their initial appointment, meaning our patients can quickly get back to enjoying life to the fullest again.

What are cataracts?

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.

Cataracts are extremely common and are most often the result of the natural aging of the eye. Cataracts can form at any stage in life. Albeit rare, cataract can be present from birth, known as a congenital cataract.  In the vast majority of cases, the cataract unfortunately develops as we age. There are some other circumstances which cause cataracts to form which can include eye injuries, a general health condition such as diabetes, long standing eye inflammation, or from certain drug therapies.

If left untreated, cataracts will continue to develop and can eventually lead to blindness. Not only do cataracts affect eye sight and the quality of one’s vision, but this loss of vision can also have a profound impact on patient’s health and wellbeing, stopping them from doing normal day to day activities such as reading and driving, as well as being vulnerable to injuries sustained through serious trips and falls. Confidence levels can reduce as the enjoyment of everyday tasks, to include the interactions with friends and family, such as grandkids, can be inhibited as a result of the visual impairment caused.

Cataract Treatment

Fortunately, cataracts can be treated by a simple procedure called cataract surgery in which the eye’s cloudy lens is replaced by a new synthetic lens.  This synthetic lens is made of a flexible plastic which is non-toxic, light and clear, and is completely safe.  Once implanted, the lens is likely to last a lifetime and does not need to be replaced.

Cataract surgery can be performed at any stage of the cataract’s development and general anaesthetic, that is, being put to sleep, is not required.  Surgery is performed as a day case procedure under local anaesthetic, provided via the simple and straightforward application of eye drops.

At ACES we use a process called Phacoemulsification to remove cataracts, a method which uses ultrasonic energy waves to emulsify the cataract lens before it is placed with the new synthetic lens.

After cataract surgery vision should appear clearer, brighter and more colourful. The final result of surgery can often depend on many other factors including existing eye conditions.  Generally, after their surgery patients commonly tell us that they live a better quality of life, have improved mood, can undertake many additional daily tasks and wish they had the procedure done sooner.

How does cataract surgery work?

During the cataract surgery operation, the cataract will usually be removed using sound waves.  Once removed, a new synthetic lens is implanted into the eye.  This process is called Phacoemulsification and typically comprises of several steps:

  • Step 1 – Anaesthetic – The eye is numbed with either an infusion of anaesthetic around the eye or using simple eye drops.
  • Step 2 – Corneal Incision – Two small incisions are made through the clear cornea to allow insertion of microscopic single use instruments into the eye.
  • Step 3 – Capsulorhexis – The Surgeon creates a circular opening in the front surface of the capsule (or bag) in which the lens (cataract) sits.
  • Step 4 – Phacoemulsification – A handheld probe is used to break up and emulsify the lens (cataract) into liquid using the energy of ultrasound waves. The resulting ’emulsion’ is then removed.
  • Step 5 – Irrigation and Aspiration – The cortex which is the soft outer layer of the cataract is extracted.
  • Step 6 – Lens insertion – A synthetic lens is inserted into the capsular bag that contained the natural lens. An antibiotic is then injected into the eye to reduce the risk of infection. The final step is to seal the incision points, most commonly without any stitches at all.

How do I get referred for treatment?

You can discuss the options available to you for cataract surgery with your optometrist or GP who will be able to make a recommendation on the treatment required.  You can also tell your GP or optometrist where you would like to go for your surgery and once you have taken the time to decide, your GP or optometrist can then make a referral on your behalf..

Still have questions? Visit our FAQ’s for more information on cataract surgery at ACES.

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