04 June 2018
Cataracts are the world’s leading cause of blindness and yet they are one of the most successfully treatable conditions. Cataract extraction with implantation of an artificial lens is one of the most frequently performed operations in the UK, with figures showing that around 300,000 procedures are carried out every year. Yet there are still thousands of people living in the shadows of cataracts.
As part of Cataract Awareness Month, which runs throughout June, eye experts are urging people to familiarise themselves with the signs of cataracts and to seek advice if they think they are developing them.
Mrs Katya Tambe, a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Spire Nottingham, who performed the first cataract operation at Spire Nottingham in April 2017 said: “With a large number of people living in the shadows of cataracts, “Cataract Awareness Month” is a good opportunity to make people aware of the symptoms, to impress upon them the need to have their eyes examined regularly and to inform them of what to expect from cataract surgery.
She, explained that cataract operations are one of the most successful operations, with a success rate of 95% in restoring vision and are one of the safest operations, with only a 1:1000 chance of worsening of vision following surgery.
“Cataract is the clouding of the eye's natural lens, which lies behind the iris and the pupil. The job of the lens is to focus light into a sharp image on the retina, which then relays messages via the optic nerve to the brain. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image one sees will be blurry.”
Cataracts develop slowly and hence the symptoms are gradual in onset. The tell-tale signs include blurred or misty vision, glare or haloes around lights, poor vision in low light and faded colours. One may experience difficulty with reading and driving especially in low light. If one wears glasses, they may feel that their lenses are constantly dirty and need cleaning.
Whilst most cataracts develop as a result of ageing, other causes include trauma, medications such as steroids, general health conditions such as diabetes and cataracts can also be inherited.
Some ways that may help to delay the progression of cataracts is to avoid smoking, reduce exposure to UV rays, eating healthy foods like fruit and vegetables, and wearing eye protection to avoid injury to the eyes.
Mrs Tambe explained that, “Cataract surgery involves removal of the cloudy lens through a tiny 1.8 to 2.2 mm incision and replacing it with a clear artificial lens. No stitches are needed. Intraocular (artificial) lenses come in various forms: monofocals that fix either the distant vision or the near vision, requiring either near vision glasses or distance glasses; multifocal lenses that can achieve both near and distance vision, and toric lenses that can correct astigmatism.”
Prior to the surgery, scans for evaluating the dimensions of the eye are carried out, which help the surgeon to precisely calculate the power of the artificial lens required.
The surgery itself takes about 20 minutes and is performed, in the vast majority of cases, under local anaesthetic. The anaesthetic could be just topical local anaesthetic drops or some patients may need the local anaesthetic to be delivered around the eyeball to freeze it.
Patients are usually home within a few hours and an improvement in vision may be noticed within the first few hours to a few days after the surgery. Most patients can resume driving in a few days following surgery.
Typically patients need to instil eye drops for 4 weeks following surgery and can see their optician for a sight test after that. It is advisable to take a week off work and most people can resume their normal day-to-day activities within a week.
“The latest innovations in cataract surgery allow rapid restoration of sight with only a short spell in hospital and patients are back to enjoying their hobbies and day-to-day life very quickly” added Mrs Tambe.
Mrs Katya Tambe holds regular clinics at Spire Nottingham Hospital in which she treats patients for a number of eye conditions including cataract removal surgery, eyelid surgery or eyebag removal, eyelid cyst removal, glaucoma treatment, dry eye syndrome treatment, presbyopia treatment, refractive lens surgery and eyelid ptosis surgery.