To mark the start of Cataract Awareness Month this June, LaserVision Consultant Ophthalmologists Professor Harminder Dua and Mrs Dalia Said discuss the causes and treatments of this common condition.
The eye has a crystalline transparent lens more or less similar to the lens of a camera which focuses one third of the light on the retina. This is the sensitive film of the eye which transmits the image for the brain to process so that we can see it.
A cataract is a clouding of this crystalline lens most commonly due to age, however it can be caused by trauma, prolonged use of steroids (as topical eye drops or systemically), some systemic diseases such as diabetes or even as a congenital birth defect.
In the early stages of developing a cataract, patients often complain of reduced vision (especially at night), some glare while driving or inability to read.
Cataract is usually very slowly progressive and can take a long time to affect vision.
When the cataract is severe enough to interfere with vision, surgery can be performed to improve vision. The opaque natural lens is removed through a small incision in the eye and the lens is fragmented by a specialised ultrasound machine and aspirated. A plastic lens is then implanted inside the eye to replace the original crystalline lens.
The power of the plastic lens can be tailored to focus the light for distance or near vision, or in some cases a multifocal lens – a lens that can focus light for both distant and near vision can be inserted to help patients see at variable distance without the need for glasses.
Cataract surgery is the most established operation performed in the body and has a short recovery time with a 95 percent gratifying result.