Cataracts are both very common and very treatable. As technology has advanced, it has made it easier than ever to complete successful procedures.
It can be hard to believe that the first reference to cataracts treatment dates back to around 2000 years ago.
You also shouldn’t assume that cataracts just affect the elderly.
Despite how common cataract surgery is, most people know very little about what actually happens.
Here are 10 surprising things about cataract surgery procedures.
1: Cataracts Don’t Just Affect the Elderly
One of the biggest misconceptions about cataracts is that it’s a condition that only affects the elderly.
Although it’s true that the elderly are affected the majority of the time, the fact is people of all ages can develop cataracts.
Some babies are born with cataracts, or they develop them in childhood, while people only in their 40s and 50s can also have an age-related cataract.
2: The First Reference of Cataract Surgery and Treatment Dates Back 2000 Years
The earliest known references to cataract and a surgical cataract procedure come from the 29 AD De Medicina, which was written by Aulus Cornelius Celsus, a Roman encyclopaedist.
Historians have also found archaeological evidence that points to eye surgery being performed in Roman times.
There’s actually one surviving copy of an early written record of cataract surgery which dates back from around the third or fourth century AD in Cairo, Egypt.
3: Artificial Lenses as a Cataract Treatment Was Discovered During World War II
Sir Harold Ridley was an ophthalmologist who treated RAF patients that had suffered eye injuries during the war.
RIdley found that when acrylic splinters from shattered cockpit canopies became lodged in the eyes of wounded pilots, the eyes didn’t reject them like they would reject glass.
His observation led him to propose using artificial lenses as a corrective measure in cases of cataracts, something that’s done to this day. Prior to this, patients had to wear hugely magnifying ‘cataract glasses’.
4: Cataracts are the Biggest Cause of Vision Loss in the World
For people over the age of 40, cataracts are the most frequent cause of vision loss and the leading cause of blindness worldwide.
The World Health Organisation has reported that 51 percent of worldwide blindness is caused by cataracts, which equates to around 20 million people.
Believe it or not, there are actually more cases of cataracts worldwide than there are of glaucoma.
This also makes it the most common operation of any speciality performed in the UK, with around 400,000 procedures being carried out each year in the country.
5: There’s Only One Solution…
The symptoms of some early cataracts can be improved with new glasses, brighter lighting, magnifying lenses and even anti-glare sunglasses.
Although, it’s not the end solution.
If these measures don’t help – which they won’t as you get older – then surgery is the only effective treatment.
Surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens, so make sure you do your research and pick the right clinic.
6: But You Can Reduce the Risk of Cataracts
There’s no way to entirely prevent cataracts from forming in the first instances, but there are certain methods which can reduce the risk to begin with.
This includes wearing sunglasses, eating a healthy diet, getting in plenty of exercise and avoiding tobacco products.
Apart from avoiding removable causes, there still isn’t a known successful prevention.
7: Sun Exposure Can Increase Your Risk of Cataracts
If UV rays pose a great threat to your skin, just imagine the impact it can have on your eyes.
UV rays are incredibly harmful and they speed up the breakdown of protein in the lens, contributing to cataract formation.
Prevent it by wearing protective eyewear like sunglasses with 100 percent UV blocking certification.
8: Cataracts are Developed Painlessly
One of the reasons why people don’t actually realise they have cataracts until they have experienced significant vision loss is because cataracts actually develop painlessly.
Cataracts are not usually painful until they’ve developed to the point where they cause extreme sensitivity to light, or an acute attack of glaucoma.
Thankfully, technology has advanced so that cataract surgery procedures are also painless.
9: Cataract Surgery Procedures Only Take 10-15 Minutes
Cataracts can usually be treated with a routine day case operation where the cloudy lens is removed and is replaced with an artificial lens.
This means that cataract surgery only takes around 10-15 minutes to successfully complete, so you’ll be ready to go home the same day. Modern cataract surgery gives excellent results and the recovery times are fairly quick too.
The operation has consistently evolved and the current techniques using ultrasound and a keyhole approach have demonstrated an excellent safety track record.
10: A Dentist Inspired the Modern Technique
Modern cataract procedures include the use of high-frequency ultrasound, delivered via a special handpiece which breaks up the misty lens into very small pieces.
This surgical approach is known as phacoemulsification, or ‘phaco’ for short. This makes for quicker healing times and reduces some of the risk of cataract surgery complications.
You probably wouldn’t have guessed that it was technology a dentist was using that inspired the modern technique!
Back in 1967, ophthalmologist pioneer in cataract surgery Charles D. Kelman introduced phacoemulsification after being inspired by his dentist’s ultrasonic probe.
This technique means cataracts could be removed without a large incision and it decreased the need for extended hospital stays and made the surgery less painful.
Find Out More About All Things Cataracts
If you have cataracts and you’re looking into the options available to you, then make sure you download our comprehensive guide and check out this page on cataract surgery treatments.
The complete cataract guide features everything you need to know about treatment, more interesting facts, the true cost of the procedure and the steps you can take to make sure you find the perfect clinic for you – and what to look out for.