Cataract surgery involves removing the cloudy natural lens inside your eye and replacing it with an artificial lens.
About cataract surgery
As you get older, the lens in your eye can gradually become less transparent and your vision can start to look misty. This is known medically as having a cataract.Cataracts usually develop over a long period, causing your eyesight to gradually get worse over time. If a cataract is left untreated, the lens will eventually become so clouded that it’s impossible for you to see any detail, and your vision will become severely affected. You may also find that bright lights will cause glare or dazzle you more than they previously did.
Cataract surgery at Kingsbridge Private Hospital Belfast is a simple operation to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear artificial lens. The result of cataract surgery will be that you can see more clearly.
Cataracts can be removed at any stage; you don’t need to wait until your eyesight is badly affected to have this simple operation and restore your clarity of sight.
Cataracts can develop in one or both eyes. If you have cataracts in both eyes, it is recommended that you have them removed one at a time, starting with the eye that is most severely affected.
What are the alternatives to cataract surgery?
Removing the cloudy lens and putting a new lens inside your eye is the only way to restore your vision.
Glasses or other visual aids can help you to see better in the short-term but they can’t be used to treat a cataract and if your vision becomes poor they may not help at all.
Cataracts can impair the vision making day to day activities a struggle
What happens during cataract surgery
The operation is a simple procedure and usually takes around 30 minutes.
Eye drops are used to widen your pupil and relax the muscles in your eye. This makes it easier for the eye to be examined and the lens to be removed.
Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, your surgeon will make tiny cuts on the surface of your eye. Although your eye is open and you will be awake, you won’t be able to see the instruments being used, however you may see light and some movement. You won’t feel any pain during the procedure.
A special instrument is used to break up the cloudy lens. You may hear a soft buzzing sound when it’s being used. He or she will remove the broken lens from your eye leaving behind the capsule it sits in. The new artificial lens is then put in, where it will stay permanently.
Your surgeon will usually leave your eye to heal naturally without stitches.
What to expect afterwards
After a local anaesthetic, it can take several hours before the feeling comes back into your treated eye. Your eye is likely to be covered with a protective pad, which you will need to wear overnight.
You may need pain relief to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off. You may be given antibiotic eye drops to use at home to help prevent an infection while your eye heals. You may also be given steroid eye drops to help control inflammation in your eye.
You will usually be able to go home when you feel ready. However, you will need to arrange for someone to drive you home. We recommend you have a friend or relative stay with you for the first 24 hours after your procedure.
Recovering from cataract surgery
If you have been prescribed antibiotic eye drops, it’s important to complete the whole course.
If you need pain relief, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist for advice.
You should start to get feeling back in your eye after a few hours. Your vision should start to improve within a few days, however it may take a few weeks to heal completely.
There are some important instructions to follow for the first 10 days after cataract surgery. The main ones are listed below. Don’t touch or rub your eye. If you’re a restless sleeper you can wear an eye patch at night to protect your eye.
- Don’t do any heavy lifting or strenuous exercise for the first few weeks after the operation, as this can increase the pressure in your eye and could put strain on your healing scar.
- If you go out when it’s windy, protect your eye from grit and dust.
See your GP if you have any symptoms, including:
- loss of vision
- redness in your eye that continues to get worse
It usually takes about two to six weeks to make a full recovery from cataract surgery, but this varies between individuals, so it’s important to follow your surgeon’s advice.
What are the risks?
As with every procedure, there are some risks associated with cataract surgery. Risks are specific to you and differ for every person. These will be discussed at your consultation.
Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary effects you may get after having the procedure. Side-effects of cataract surgery include:
- mild pain, discomfort and bruising of your eyelid or eye
- reduced central vision that usually returns to normal after treatment
Complications with this type of procedure are very rare. The most common complication of cataract surgery is called posterior capsule opacification (PCO). This is when cells from the removed lens are left behind after surgery and begin to grow back. This causes problems with your vision similar to having a cataract. Further treatment can help correct this problem if it does occur.
Other complications of cataract surgery are rare but can include:
- a tear in your lens capsule
- a detached retina
If any of these complications occur, you may need to have another operation.Back