Cataract surgery

Cataracts make your vision blurry or dim. Cataract surgery restores clear vision by replacing the misty lens inside your eye with a new, clear implant

Vision before Cataract laser eye surgery Before cataract surgery
Vision after Cataract laser eye treatment Example after surgery
Example after surgery Before cataract surgery

Cataract Surgery

Cataract surgery is an operation used to treat cataracts that are affecting your daily life. More than 300,000 procedures are carried out each year in the UK, making it the most common operation of any specialty performed in the country.

Cataracts can usually be treated with a routine day case operation where the cloudy lens is removed and is replaced with an artificial plastic lens. Lens surgery is a very established procedure and was first performed in 1950.

Cataract surgery takes 10-15 minutes to complete

Since then the operation has consistently evolved; current techniques using ultrasound and a keyhole approach have demonstrated an excellent safety track record.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens inside the the front part of eye. It causes a loss of vision that cannot be fixed with glasses or contact lenses. Cataracts are very common, especially among those aged 70+.

A cataract blocks light from passing through the lens, reducing the brightness and clarity of vision. You can think of a cataract as frosted rather than clear glass; the whitening of frosted glass doesn’t allow a clear image to be seen. The whitened opacity of a cataract affects sight in the same way, preventing a clear image being made on the retina inside the eye. Laser refractive surgery, such as LASIK, is not effective.

Symptoms of cataracts

Cataracts can develop over a number of years and may initially cause no symptoms. They usually develop in both eyes, although one eye may be more advanced than the other.

You can think of a cataract as frosted rather than clear glass, preventing clear vision

Your vision can become misty or blurred, or you may have small patches where your vision is fogged, even when wearing your glasses. Common visual symptoms from cataracts include the following:

  • difficulty to see in low or very bright light
  • development of (or an increase in) short-sight
  • glare from strong lights may be uncomfortable or dazzling
  • colours can appear washed out or have a yellow or brown hue
  • double vision
  • glasses no longer correct your vision
  • headlights or street lights appear to have a halo around them

Cataracts are very treatable and Focus offer modern, minimally invasive surgery. Contact us for more information on our advanced cataract removal procedures.

Diagram of an eye requiring Cataract surgery

Understanding cataracts

What causes cataracts?

Precisely why cataracts occur is not known, although they appear to be caused by alterations in proteins within the lens that develop over many years, changing it from clear to cloudy. Cataracts are linked with:

  • age – cataracts will eventually affect most people and become more common as we get older
  • family history of cataracts increases your chances of developing them
  • severe trauma or previous eye surgery
  • inflammation in the eye, e.g. iritis, uveitis
  • excessive ultraviolet light (UV) over a long period
  • radiation
  • diabetes
  • smoking and excessive alcohol intake
  • oral, topical, or inhaled steroids
  • long-term use of statins and phenothiazines
  • congenital – cataracts can occasionally be present at birth or during early childhood from metabolic, genetic or infectious causes

Irrespective of the cause, when cataracts affect vision to the point of interfering with daily activities they are treated by surgical removal. Apart from avoiding removable causes above, there is no known prevention.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

Cataracts are often detected during an eye examination, either with your local optometrist or an eye doctor. You may or may not have noticed a drop in vision, depending on how far the cataract has progressed. The opacified areas of the lens can be most easily seen using a slit-lamp microscope (a vertical microscope controlled by a joystick, shining a bright slit of light at your eye while your chin sits upon a chin-rest).

Using a variety of tests, a doctor is able to tell how much a cataract may be affecting vision. Usual eye tests include:

  1. testing visual acuity for distance and reading
  2. glare sensitivity (does a bright light decrease your vision)
  3. colour vision
  4. contrast sensitivity (distinguish between shades)
  5. complete examination of all other parts of the eye

A full eye examination will confirm that the loss of sight is not because of other common eye problems, such as diabetes, glaucoma, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Preparing for your cataract surgery

Prior to cataract operation, your ophthalmologist will perform a complete eye health examination to check the overall condition of your eyes, determine any risk factors, and exclude any reasons why you should not have surgery.

A measurement of any glasses prescription, called a refraction, will be performed to accurately determine your degree of short-sight, long-sight and any astigmatism you have prior to surgery. Additional measurements include biometry (a detailed ultrasound scan to measure all the anatomical dimension, including the length of your eye) and topography to determine the curvature of your cornea.

Your surgeon needs all these measurements to select the proper power of the intraocular lens implant to give you the most detailed vision possible after the operation.

Your surgeon will also discuss the various types of lens implants available prior to your cataract surgery, as well as describing what to expect before, during and after your procedure.

If you have cataracts in both eyes, your surgeon may treat your right and left eyes on the same day, or may ask that you wait 1 to 3 weeks between procedures. For those patients who are having both eyes treated on the same day, you will typically have a check-up one or two days later. The choice will depend on your prescription and surgeon recommendation.

What happens after cataract surgery?

How quickly will I see after surgery?

Normally the vision is soft focus immediately after surgery and the next day vision is often good.

When can I drive?

We will advise you depending upon your individual circumstances, with most people driving again only after both eyes have been treated. When only one eye is being treated driving usually commences a few days after surgery.

When can I work?

This depends upon your occupation. Most people with office-based occupations resume work within a few days or a week. Those who work in a dusty environment may need two to four weeks off work.

Are activities restricted after surgery?

Common sense needs to be applied but people can bend over, wash, shop and carry out general activities. On the day following surgery you can take a bath or shower and use a computer. Sports can be resumed after a few weeks or a month. Flying as a passenger can be done the day after surgery but as a pilot the necessary licensing needs to be completed before flying resumes.

Will I still need to wear glasses?

Many people do not need to wear distance glasses after modern cataract surgery, but this is not guaranteed. If there is clear distance vision, reading glasses are normally required unless there is a multifocal lens implant or monovision. For those with a multifocal implant or monovision, glasses may still be required for some tasks.

Further information on cataract surgery recovery can be found here.

How are cataracts treated?

Surgery for cataract is very effective at restoring vision. The misty or opaque cataract needs to be removed and replaced with a new clear implant, known as an intraocular lens (IOL). The procedure takes 10-15 minutes per eye and is typically is performed as a day case, without needing an overnight stay in hospital.

Modern cataract operations include the use of high-frequency ultrasound, known as phacoemulsification, or ‘phaco’

In most cases, treatment will be performed under local anaesthetic (you are awake but the eye is numbed). Modern cataract operations include the use of high-frequency ultrasound, delivered via a special hand-piece, that breaks up the misty lens into very small pieces. These fragments are then gently removed from the eye with minimal suction.

This surgical approach is known as phacoemulsification or “phaco” for short. It can be performed with much smaller incisions than prior techniques for cataract removal, allowing quicker healing and reducing some of the risk of cataract surgery complications, such as retinal detachment.

Once all of the cloudy lens has been removed, your surgeon inserts a clear specially designed implant, called an intraocular lens (IOL), placing it securely in the space created after removal of your natural lens.

The final step is for your surgeon to close the incision in your eye, usually without the need for a stitch. A protective plastic shield protects your eye while it heals in the post-op recovery phase.

Choosing the right lens implant for your vision

With private surgery, you have a wide choice for which IOL you would like implanted. Your options though come under three main lens choices, depending if you would like to minimise the need for reading glasses after surgery:

  1. Standard mono-focal IOLs
  2. Mono-focal IOLs with monovision
  3. Premium multi-focal IOLs

IOLs that correct short-sight and long-sight are standard mono-focal implants, and the type used in the NHS. There are now toric IOLs that correct astigmatism as well.

If you don’t mind wearing glasses after cataract surgery, a monofocal lens implant usually is used. You will need reading glasses after cataract surgery with monofocal IOLs. New glasses can be prescribed for you approximately one month after surgery.

If you like the idea of being less dependent on glasses after cataract surgery, one way to correct presbyopia and reduce your need for reading glasses is to have your cataract surgeon adjust the power of one of your monofocal IOLs (assuming you have cataract surgery performed in both eyes) to give you a monovision correction, similar to monovision with contact lenses.

Another option is to choose one of a variety of advanced presbyopia-correcting IOLs to improve your reading vision without sacrificing your distance vision. Presbyopia-correcting IOLs include bifocal and trifocal IOLs; both types are designed to provide a greater range of vision after cataract surgery than conventional monofocal IOLs.

Be aware that not everyone is a good candidate for these premium IOLs, and choosing a presbyopia-correcting IOL is only available privately.

Book your FREE consultation

Related Articles
  • 15-Foods-For-Eye-Health-2

    15 Foods That Can Improve Your Eye Health

    Did you know eating certain foods can actually improve your eyesight, slow down aging of your eyes and keep your eyes in good health?

    Learn more
  • the most iconic sunglasses of all time

    The 30 Most Iconic Sunglasses of All Time

    Monday the 27th June is National Sunglasses day, so we thought we'd take a look back at the most iconic sunglasses (and their wearers)!

    Learn more
  • common prescription drugs that can damage your eyes

    10 Common Prescription Drugs That Can Damage Your Eyes

    10 Common Prescription Drugs That Can Damage Your Eyes For many years there has been speculation over the side effects of major drugs around the world. Whilst adverse reactions are rare, they can and do appear for some of us, especially when drugs are taken for extended periods of time. The below common medications are […]

    Learn more
  • high cholesterol affects vision

    How High Cholesterol Affects your Eyes

    Most people are aware that high cholesterol causes health issues, but many aren’t aware of the impact high cholesterol can have on your vision.

    Learn more
  • common habits that damage your eyes

    Common Habits That Can Damage Your Eyes

    "Don't sit so close to the television...you'll ruin your eyes!" Pretty much all of us will have had this shouted at us as kids! And to be fair to our concerned parents, there used to be some truth in the saying!

    Learn more
  • what is astigmatism

    Smoking Yourself Blind

    It’s common knowledge that smoking is heavily linked to cancer and respiratory problems. What a lot of smokers don’t realise is that smoking is also linked to various eye conditions.

    Learn more
  • cataract surgery advances

    Cataract Symptoms

    Cataracts can develop over months or more commonly years and initially they may present no symptoms.

    Learn more
  • cataract surgery recovery

    Cataract surgery recovery

    Cataract surgery recovery Cataract surgery is the most common surgical procedure in the developed world. Recovery from a modern cataract operation is quick and typically uncomplicated due to the minimally invasive keyhole approach. No sutures are required and the procedure is performed as a day case without needing to stay in hospital. Who needs cataract […]

    Learn more
  • cataract surgery advances

    Cataract surgery advances

    Cataract surgery advances – The history of cataract surgery Cataract is the leading cause of blindness in the world, which unsurprisingly, makes cataract surgery one of the most frequently performed surgeries in the world. the first recorded cataract surgery took place in 600 B.C. by Susruta of India The technique used to cure cataract was […]

    Learn more
  • Should I have laser eye surgery

    Should I have laser eye surgery?

    Ever ask yourself 'Should I have laser eye surgery?' Here's some quick facts about how Focus Clinic's laser eye surgery can change your life!

    Learn more
  • laser eye surgery consultation

    What tests are needed before laser eye surgery?

    What tests are needed before laser eye surgery? You will have a comprehensive set of scans and tests at Focus Clinic before you meet your specialist. These test give a wealth of data on your eyes and vision and help ensure you are a safe candidate to have vision correction. Corneal shape Both the outside and […]

    Learn more
  • teamHeader-david-1920-1200-1

    How to choose a laser eye surgeon

    How to choose a laser eye surgeon – What should people consider when choosing a surgeon, what should they ask him/her about their qualifications etc? What should they be looking for? An important question is actually one many people don’t think of – how many other patients will have treatment with that surgeon on the […]

    Learn more
  • focusHeader-1920-1200-newspaper

    What is presbyopia?

    Reading glasses and surgical options You can’t escape presbyopia, the medical term for the loss of reading vision in middle age. Sadly, it will happen to us all eventually. Even if you’ve never had a vision problem before. It usually occurs around the ages of 45-50 in the UK, and earlier in warmer and more […]

    Learn more

If you are interested in vision correction at Focus Clinics please call us on 0207 307 8250 and book a free consultation.

Book your FREE consultation
Latest from our blog
Why not refer a friend and earn
£200
Earn £25 when your friend books their free no obligation consultation and £175 when they go ahead with treatment.

+ Save your friend £200 off the cost of treatment

Refer a friend
Get in touch

Thank you for getting in touch with Focus. Your message is on its way and one of our friendly team will be in touch shortly!
Reviews

Roger

16th Jun

reviewsListing-roger

'I wanted the best and believe I got it'

close
big close

Book a free consultation

Prescription:

Thank you for getting in touch with Focus. Your message is on its way and one of our friendly team will be in touch shortly!

Would you rather speak to someone?

*Opening Times:
Monday - Friday: 9am – 6pm Saturday: 9am – 3pm

Would you rather speak to someone?

Call: 0207 307 8250

to arrange your free consultation
Surgeon David Allamby FRCS(Ed), FRCOphth
 David Allamby