Clouding over - all about cataracts
As we age, we become more susceptible to all sorts of problems and one common problem among our age group is cataracts.
A cataract is when the lens of your eye becomes cloudy so that your vision becomes blurred. It can be like looking through opaque glass and in bad cases, vision can become severely restricted. You can have a cataract in just one eye or in both eyes.
In the past people used to live with cataracts until they could hardly function properly and certainly couldn’t read. Today cataracts can be treated at a much earlier stage and the operation is usually very successful indeed.
You can’t “catch” cataracts but certain conditions such as diabetes, certain medications and other eye problems can help to bring them on. The first thing you generally notice is your vision becoming a little blurred or misty. Lights such as car headlamps and sunlight may also become more dazzling. Colour can change as well and some colours can fade and lose their vibrancy.
In some cases you won’t suffer from any symptoms and an optometrist will pick up the start of the cataracts before you know anything is wrong.
When cataracts have been diagnosed, the best treatment is to have an operation to remove the cloudy lens of the eye which causes the problem. This is not as scary as it sounds and is usually done under a local anaesthetic when you will remain awake but won’t feel anything.
The operation will be performed by an eye specialist who makes a very small opening in the eye. Through this he will remove your clouded natural lens and replace it with a clear plastic lens - an intraocular lens implant. This is a permanent implant and there is no risk of rejection in the eye.
Sometimes this implanted lens can be adapted to correct previous vision problems. If you naturally suffered from short sight, for instance, sometimes the lens can be adapted to help correct this as well.
After the operation the eye will be carefully protected with a padded eyeshield and most patients can go home the same day. The shield will have to stay on for perhaps a day or so and after the operation it is important to take care of the eye for some time to ensure complete healing and settling of the new lens. For instance, it is best to avoid strenuous exercise, swimming, getting soapy water into your eye or putting on heavy eye make up until your doctor says the eye is fully recovered. You will probably be given eye drops to use for a while after the operation.
After having had the operation, many people notice an instant improvement in their vision but in some cases it can take several months before the eye settles down with its new implanted lens. The operation won’t necessarily stop you from having to wear reading or distance glasses as a new lens doesn’t affect the eye’s ability to change focus, something that so often deteriorates with age. But it is a very successful operation with fewer than two per cent of patients incurring serious complications.
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