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What Is Cataract Surgery?
A cataract is the clouding of the normally clear lens inside the front part of the eye. It causes vision loss, usually making sight appear foggy or patchy and cannot be rectified with glasses or contact lenses.
Cataracts are very common, especially among those aged 70+. Imagine the lens as a thin piece of clear glass. Over time, the condition of the glass deteriorates and becomes cloudy or even opaque.
Cataracts can’t be treated in the same way as LASIK for short- or long-sight as lasers cannot reverse the clouding of the lens. However, we are able to effectively treat cataracts with lens replacement surgery. This is where the clouded lens is removed and replaced with a new, artificial plastic lens.
The first cataract surgery was performed in 1950, with techniques and approaches consistently evolving ever since. These days, cataract surgery involves using a high-frequency ultrasound called phacoemulsification (phaco) and a keyhole approach. Femtosecond lasers are now also being used (femto phaco, femtosecond laser assisted cataract surgery, FLACS). The laser replaces some of the manual stages in the procedure, potentially making the surgery safer and more consistent.
This approach has been proven to provide an excellent safety track record. The ultrasound breaks up the clouded lens, which is then removed with gentle suction. Breaking up the lens in this fashion allows for smaller incisions into the eye, which therefore reduce the time needed to recover and heal.
Once the clouded lens has been removed, a clear artificial lens called an Intraocular Lens (IOL) is inserted in its place.
The final step is where the surgeon closes the incision in the eye, usually without the need for a stitch. A plastic shield is given to patients to protect their eye while it heals in the post-op recovery phase.
The actual surgery, in most cases, is performed while the patient is awake. Anaesthetic eye drops are administered to make sure patients can’t feel any pain throughout the procedure.
Patients can normally see in soft focus straight after surgery with good vision normally restored after 24 to 48 hours.
With private surgeries, like the ones offered at Focus Clinic, there is a wide range of IOLs available. Standard monofocal IOLs will provide clear vision, even if you already suffer from long- or short-sight. Astigmatism can also be treated with an IOL. If you need reading glasses, you will still need to wear them to correct blurry close vision (unless you opt for a premium multifocal lens, see below).
If you like the idea of not being as reliant on glasses after surgery, your surgeon can adjust the power of your monofocal lenses to give you monovision correction (approximately similar in effect to standard monovision contact lenses, or LASIK Blended Vision).
In addition to the above options, a new advanced variety of presbyopia correcting IOLs are available. These lenses improve your reading vision without impacting your distance vision. This range includes bifocal and trifocal IOLs.
However, it’s important to note that not everyone is suitable for these premium IOLs. All of the available options are discussed with patients at the consultation stage.