Cataracts: everything you need to know

With cataract numbers set to rise, it’s important for people to know more about cataracts, why they form, and what can be done about them.

Cataract Surgery: everything you need to know

Cataracts are a common symptom of ageing.  Most people start to notice changes in their vision from age 60 years. Early cataracts can be managed with glasses. If your cataracts are causing problems with your vision or your glasses no longer help you, it may be time to think about having cataract surgery. Cataracts are easily treated with cataract surgery and the results are very successful.  In fact cataract surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in New Zealand.

Therefore, it’s important for you to know more about cataracts, why they form, and what can be done about them.

So what are cataracts?

A cataract is a clump or collection of protein in your eye’s lens. Usually the protein in your eye exists to focus light to pass through the lens, but over time the protein can collect into cloudy clumps, called cataracts. It starts small, and probably wouldn’t affect your vision too much, but as it grows and gets harder, you’ll start to notice it more and more.

How do you know if you have a cataract?

General signs that you may have a cataract include:

- Blurry vision
- Colours cease to be as bright and vivid
- You’ll notice more glare from lights at night.

Cataracts generally form over a longer period of time, usually a few years, and you may notice your vision slowly changing. However, sometimes they can form quickly, and you’ll notice your vision changing more rapidly.

Why do cataracts form?

While it’s still unknown exactly why cataracts form, there are a number of factors believed to contribute to their formation. These can include smoking, diabetes, alcohol, or your family history. But the most common reason believed to cause to cataracts is exposure to UV light.

Are their different types of cataracts?

There are three main types of cataracts: nuclear, cortical and posterior subcapsular. Some cataracts are a combination of the three types.

When should you get cataract surgery?

If you’ve got cataracts, you may be asking yourself when’s the best time to get them surgically removed, and it really depends on how much of an effect they have on your vision and quality of life.

If you find your vision impaired and you’re struggling to see properly at night, it might be a good idea to consider getting them removed, especially if it’s going to restore your vision again.

What’s the process of removing cataracts?

Before cataract surgery can be done, you’ll need to meet your eye specialist and have a few tests done to ensure you’re an eligible candidate.  Your eye will be measured with a high tech scan (optical biometry), this measures the length of your eye and its curvature (keratometry). These measurements are used to calculate the correct intraocular lens for you. Special intraocular lenses are available to correct astigmatism.

When it comes to the surgical procedure, you may be surprised to hear it’s usually a simple and painless process. First, a small incision will be made on the side of the cornea. Then a small instrument is inserted to break up the cloudy cataract with high-frequency ultrasound, and then what’s left of the cataract is washed out. Once the cataract is completely removed, the doctor will insert the new intraocular lens to replace it.

So if you think you may be getting cataracts, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment with Dr Reece Hall at Bowen Eye Clinic.

If you’re in Wellington, Waikanae, or Palmerston North, make an appointment with us today.