Dear doctor, I've been told I have cataracts. What can I do to improve my eyesight?

02 February 2017

Q: I recently saw my optician as I feel my vision is degrading and was told I have cataracts developing. What is this and what can I do to improve my eyesight?

A: Similar to its function in a camera - the lens of your eye helps focus light on the retina and as we age, this becomes more opaque, preventing light rays from passing through it - like a frosted glass window.  

An early sign of the condition may be a changing prescription and as the lens becomes cloudier, you may experience symptoms including; blurred vision, light sensitivity and near-sightedness or distortion.

Cataracts affect approximately 70% of people in the UK over 65 years of age. Today, it is possible to perform surgery at a relatively early stage, and usually recommended once vision is affecting your lifestyle. It may also help those who wish to drive but do not currently meet the DVLA legal eyesight standard.

The procedure involves the removal of the cloudy natural lens and replacing it with a carefully selected intraocular lens (IOL). These are precisely manufactured and come in a range of styles and strengths, so a key part of the consultation is deciding which lens suits that particular patient. This has a major influence on the outcome and whether glasses would be needed. The NHS offers excellent cataract surgery but rarely with tailored intraocular lens, meaning that glasses will almost certainly be required after surgery.

While most procedures are carried out by hand, newly developed state-of-the-art laser technology now enables surgery without blades, allowing for unprecedented precision, comfort and safety. It normally takes less than 10 minutes, with little or no pain and whilst patients are usually awake during the procedure, it can also be performed under general anaesthetic. The risks of the surgery are low but for safety, it is performed in one eye at a time.

Cataract surgery offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to correct common vision problems and reduces (or removes entirely) your dependence on glasses or contact lenses permanently.

Mr Rakesh Jayaswal is a Consultant Ophthalmologist practising at Spire Portsmouth Hospital

The content of this article is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the professional medical advice of your doctor or other health care professional.


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