Information about Cataracts

This page has been written to give you more information about cataracts. Advice on treatment, information about symptoms as well as what to expect, going forwards.

What is a cataract?

Cataracts are formed when the clear lens inside your eye becomes cloudy or misty. This is a gradual process that usually happens as we get older. It does not hurt. The early stages of a cataract do not necessarily affect your sight but your Optometrist may inform you even at this stage. The presence of cataract will be investigated as part of your eye examination.

The only proven treatment for a cataract is surgery. If the cataract gets to the stage where it affects your sight, your optometrist will refer you to a hospital to have this done. The surgery is carried out under a local anaesthetic and has a very high success rate.

What causes cataracts?

The main cause is ageing and most people will eventually develop a cataract in both eyes. Although one eye may be affected before the other. Cataracts affect men and women equally.

Younger people can develop cataracts if they have an injury to the eye. Some medical conditions such as diabetes, or taking some sorts of medication such as steroids, may also cause cataracts. A very small number of babies are born with a cataract.

Information about cataracts

Will cataracts affect my vision?

If you have cataracts you may notice that your vision is less clear and distinct. Car headlights and streetlights can become dazzling, and you may experience difficulty moving from shade to sunlit areas. Colours may look different too, and become faded or yellowed.

If you are long-sighted, you may even notice that you need your glasses less than you did before you had the cataract! It may be that the cataract is causing a change to your long or short sight and your sight can be improved simply by changing your glasses.

Can I prevent cataracts?

Smoking and prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light increase your risk of developing cataracts. Stopping smoking and wearing good-quality sunglasses may provide some protection against cataracts, as well as other eye conditions.

Drinking a lot of alcohol and being overweight are also risk factors for developing cataracts, so you should try to maintain a healthy weight and limit the amount of alcohol you drink.  You cannot make cataracts worse by using your eyes too much.

Please note: Supplements claiming to treat or slow your cataracts have no scientific evidence to support this.

Frequently asked questions about cataracts…….

Can I drive if I have cataracts?

If you have cataracts, you may continue to drive as long as you still meet the vision standards for driving. Your optometrist will be able to advise you about this. You do not need to tell the DVLA about your cataract unless you cannot meet the vision standards for driving.

How do I know when I need cataract surgery?

Your Optometrist will work closely with the local eye hospital. There are normally protocols in place for when referral is merited. Your Optometrist will recommend regular eye examinations to track the progress of your cataract and arrange referral to the hospital when it’s the right time or when you reach the local protocols.

Please Note: In the Hailsham area cataracts are assessed against a scoring system. When an individual reaches enough points they can be referred to the local eye hospital.

I have been told the NHS are making patients wait longer before they can have cataract surgery, is this correct?

The local eye hospital have protocols in place to score how bad a cataract is and when it is appropriate to consider surgery. Broadly speaking it is around the minimum standard needed to drive. If you feel your quality of life is affected but you do not meet the required score, private cataract surgery is an option. Please talk to the Focus Medical Eye Centre team for more details.

Please Note: The current NHS wait from point of referral to initial assessment is around 3-4 months. Privately this would be closer to 2 weeks.

What does cataract surgery involve?

These days the vast majority of cataract surgery is performed as a day case under local anaesthetic. It takes around 20 minutes and you will be allowed home later that day with some instructions on how to look after the eye.

If I have cataracts in both eyes, will the operation be done on both eyes together?

Most people will have one cataract removed at a time. However, some surgeons will carry out the operation on both eyes at the same time for patients who are at low risk of complications.

Please Note: Local protocol involves re-scoring the second eye and often surgery will not be indicated for several months to years.

What are the risks of cataract surgery?

Most people find that cataract surgery is successful and are happy with the results. However, as with all surgery, there are risks involved and you should not have the operation unless you feel it is right for you. Before you have surgery the risks, and how they apply to your individual case, will be discussed with you.

Will I need new glasses after my cataract operation?

Your eyesight will settle down in a few days or weeks. After cataract surgery most people need to wear glasses for either distance, near vision or both. If you wore glasses before the operation, you will probably find that they will need changing after the operation, so you will need to see your optometrist again for an eye examination a few weeks after the surgery.

Please Note: Local protocol recommends an eye examination with your Optometrist 4 weeks after surgery.

When can I start driving again after surgery?

Your ophthalmologist or optometrist will be able to advise you as to when you can start driving again. You may find that it takes a few weeks to adapt to your vision with new glasses after cataract surgery. This is normal, and is due to your brain adapting to a different prescription.

Will the cataract come back?

After some months or years, some people notice that their vision becomes cloudy or misty again in the eye where the cataract has been removed. This is not the cataract returning, but is due to the sac which contains the replacement lens clouding up. This cloudiness can be removed by painless laser treatment in a matter of minutes. Contact your optometrist if you are worried that this is happening to you.

Do cataracts only develop in one eye?

If you have had a cataract removed from one eye, it is likely that you will need the same treatment for the other eye at some point in the future.

Focus Medical Eye Centre are your local award winning Independent eye care specialists. Please contact the team if you have any questions regarding advice and information about Cataracts.

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