A cataract, in simple words, can be defined as the clouding of the eye lens. The lens of the eye through which the light passes lies behind the iris (the coloured part). The lens is transparent and helps in focusing the light that enters our eye. When a cataract develops, the lens becomes misty or cloudy resulting in partial or complete vision impairment. One or both the eyes are affected by cataract.
The process of developing cataracts is quite gradual. At the early stage, although your optometrist may have told you that you have a cataract, you may not have any symptoms. As the condition worsens, you may have the following symptoms:
- A sensation that your glasses are unclear and need cleaning even when they are clean.
- The vision becomes misty and cloudy, and you may have a problem watching TV, driving, reading some prints, playing golf etc.
- The eyes become sensitive to light, be it sunlight or car headlights which produce more glare.
- The objects around look more washed out than they should appear.
- You may feel colours not as bright as used to be.
- You may be requiring a frequent change of glasses.
- You are getting double vision only with one eye but not with both eyes open.
Usually, the cataracts develop so gradually that you may not feel any changes in the vision. It may only be diagnosed during your regular, routine examination with the optometrist.
As we age, cataract develops. So, it's very much an ageing process. But even a child or a young, healthy person can have a cataract for unknown reasons. However, there are certain conditions which contribute to developing cataract.
- Diabetes Mellitus – Those suffering from diabetes mellitus have increased chances of developing cataracts and this may be earlier than those without diabetes mellitus.
- Trauma - An injury to the eyes may enhance the development of a cataract.
- Medication - Certain class of drugs, like the steroids, can contribute to causing cataract.
- Eye Operation - Any eye surgery, especially retinal surgery, will lead to cataract development after some time. The cataract will be developed in the same eye, which underwent surgery.
- Other eye conditions - specific eye problems like in inflammation, glaucoma, retinitis pigmentosa, etc. can also cause or be associated with increased likelihood of cataract in future.
Cataracts that are developed due to certain medications, ageing or other eye conditions generally affect both the eyes. The cataracts developed due to eye injuries or surgery affect only one eye. No matter what the cause of the cataract is, the only solution to the problem is surgery.
Cataracts can only be treated with surgical methods; there are no drops or medicines that are able to remove them. The operation uses an artificial lens to replace the natural lens which has become cloudy. This artificial lens is also referred to as 'Intra Ocular Lens' or IOL. The artificial lens is made up of plastic or silicone material, and once it is fitted in the eye, it does not need to be replaced again.
Moreover, if both the eyes are having cataract surgery, for safety, they will be treated on separate days.
There is no specific point of time or age for cataract surgery; it can be done at any point. However, there are several factors which are considered before deciding on cataract surgery:
- If you are having problems in your day to day activities concerning your eyesight? This could be glare while driving, difficulty with reading, playing golf, watching TV etc.
- Is there any other eye condition such as angle-closure glaucoma or open glaucoma? Does your consultant recommend cataract surgery?
The only part of the eye which is affected by cataract is the lens. If you delay the surgery, your vision will be affected negatively with each passing day but delaying your surgery typically doesn’t mean you are permanently damaging your vision. The result of the surgery will be the same at any stage. In some cases, early surgery is advisable. Mr Agarwal will discuss this with you.
If you drive and you have been told that you have a cataract. In that case, it is your responsibility to make sure that you meet the driving standards to ensure you are still safe and legally allowed to drive.
It is your decision whether you would like to go ahead with the surgery or not after discussing the risks and benefits with Mr Agarwal.
There is a waiting list in all NHS hospitals, and the length of the waiting is different in each region and health board.
If you wish to go ahead with your surgery privately, Mr Agarwal should be able to offer you a date within a month or earlier. The second eye is usually done within two weeks to allow you to see your optometrist and get final glasses within the next 4 to 6 weeks.
While care has been taken to compile accurate information and to keep it up to date, Mr Agarwal cannot guarantee its correctness and completeness. The information provided in this information sheet is designed to support care and is not a substitute for professional healthcare advice, by a qualified doctor or other healthcare professional, which will be tailored to a patient’s individual circumstances.