Cataracts are a common health condition, mainly affecting the older population.
It’s a process of gradual visual deterioration, whereby the lens within the eye leads to cloudy or blurred vision. It can be a distressing a debilitating condition if not treated effectively.
Cataracts can often be remedied through surgery, however, many people are concerned that their vision may never return to normal, even after surgery.
What Are Cataracts?
Cataracts is the term used to describe the process when the lens within the eye becomes cloudy, causing blurry vision.
Cataracts are usually caused by the build-up of proteins within the eye, usually due to old age and it is normal for both eyes to be affected.
Left without any intervention, some people find that symptoms worsen, causing a vast reduction in sight and eventually could lead to blindness.
According to Sightsavers, 12.6 million people in the world today are blind due to having cataracts that weren’t treated in time.
How Are Cataracts Removed?
Cataract surgery involves the removal of the damaged eye lens which is then replaced with a new, artificial intraocular lens.
Surgery has a high success rate, however, it isn’t always a necessary procedure. Many people don’t rush to have any surgery completed. However, others find the condition very difficult to live with, and depending on the severity of the condition, it can greatly affect the mental health and well-being of a person and their ability to complete normal activities.
Cataract surgery is usually a simple process that takes around 45 minutes to complete. It is recommended by specialists that if you are experiencing cataracts in both eyes, you have them operated on simultaneously to avoid any complications.
Can Cataracts Come Back After Surgery?
Cataract surgery is a permanent solution, so cataracts will not come back after surgery.
The old, damaged lens is replaced with an artificial lens which cannot be affected the same way the natural lens could be, meaning you will not experience any blurred or reduced vision after a successful operation.
Some people do report issues or complications after cataract surgery, however, this is classed as a ‘Secondary Cataract’.
What Are Secondary Cataracts?
Secondary Cataracts (often referred to as posterior capsular opacification) normally develop within the first few years after having your initial cataract surgery done. Some of the symptoms include:
- An increase in glare
- Reduction in the overall vision
- Blurred vision
- Unable to differentiate colours
Secondary Cataracts occur when scar tissue forms behind the new artificial lens. This scar tissue causes disruption in your vision, causing similar symptoms to normal cataracts.
Can Secondary Cataracts Be Fixed?
Fortunately, Secondary Cataracts are normally a quick, easy, and completely painless fix.
The procedure is called a YAG laser capsulotomy, and although this sounds complex, it’s a rather simple procedure.
You will be given eye drops to help dilate your eye and then a laser will be used to clear away any scar tissue that has accumulated from the first operation.
This procedure is usually over in a matter of minutes with symptoms normally disappearing after a few days.
Cataracts cannot come back after surgery.
The insertion of an artificial lens means that the cloudiness and reduced vision found within the original lens will be gone.
Although some people experience similar symptoms after their surgery, this is due to secondary cataracts. A quick 10-minute procedure will clear the symptoms of secondary cataracts and leave you feeling the benefits of your surgery.
Living with cataracts can prove problematic for a number of reasons, however, it’s important to recognise the symptoms that cataracts cause and obtain medical help as soon as possible. Doing so will increase your quality of life and limit any potential side effects.
Who Is At Risk Of Cataracts?
Cataracts occur for many different reasons. Some people are born with cataracts and some people acquire them as they get older. There are a number of risk factors that highlight those who are more likely to develop cataracts:
- Being an older adult
- Having diabetes
- Being a frequent smoker
- Being overweight/obese
- Having high blood pressure
- Having had previous eye surgery
What Are The Different Types Of Cataracts?
There are 3 main types of cataracts that we can expect to see:
- Nuclear Sclerotic Cataract – this is the most prevalent type of cataract which start in the middle of the lens, causing cloudiness and spreading to other areas of the eye.
- Cortical Cataract – this type of cataract starts from the outside of the lens and spreads inwards into the centre of the eye.
- Posterior Subcapsular Cataract – More common in people with diabetes, these types of cataracts start in the rear of the lens.
What Are The Symptoms Of Cataracts?
It is important to be able to identify the symptoms of cataracts, so you are able to ask for help and fix the issue.
Here are a few of the most common symptoms you are likely to experience if you have cataracts:
- Blurred/ Cloudy vision
- Overwhelmed by bright or glaring lights
- Painful sensation around the eyes
- Colours appear to be faded
Symptoms of childhood cataracts are slightly different:
- Poor vision
- Wobbling eyes
It can be quite difficult to tell if a child has cataracts. If you have any concerns over your child’s eyesight, the best option is to contact your GP.
Is Cataract Surgery Successful?
In short, yes. Cataract surgery is a straightforward surgery and has very high success rates. Let’s take a look at a few of the pros and cons of cataract surgery so you can make an informed decision for yourself:
- High success rate – it is a simple procedure that takes very little time
- No more blurred vision – you are able to see things clearly and in focus after surgery
- Ability to see colours – you will be able to tell the difference between colours
- Surgical Complications – As with any surgery there may be complications, some of which can include sight loss and blurred vision.
- Further Surgery – if you experience any complications you may be required to come back for further surgery in the future.