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Six signs you may need cataract surgery

April 16 2018

Cataract surgery is the most common procedure carried out by the NHS, with around 400,000 operations a year.

It is estimated that around 2.5 million people aged 65 and over in England and Wales have some form of vision impairment caused by cataracts. While cataracts can interfere with everyday life if left untreated, cataract surgery is a successful procedure with good results for almost all patients.

Here are the six signs that mean you might need cataract surgery:

  • Cloudy vision
  • Changes in colour vision
  • Glare while driving
  • Difficulty with reading
  • Glasses prescription changes (increased frequency)
  • Double vision or ghosting of images (especially if only noticeable in one eye)

What causes cataracts?

  • Natural ageing changes (most cataracts are formed this way)
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Babies can be born with congenital cataracts

What if I suspect I have a cataract?

You need a professional eye examination by your optician or ophthalmologist (after referral by your GP). If your vision can be corrected to an acceptable level with glasses or contact lenses surgery may be avoided at this time. If your vision loss cannot be corrected by the above measures and if this interferes with your daily life (driving, watching television, hobbies) then you may benefit from cataract surgery.

What does cataract surgery involve?

Cataract surgery is the removal of the cataract and insertion of an artificial lens called an intraocular lens Implant (IOL) into the eye. Far more than 90 per cent of patients operated on have a significant improvement in their vision. The operation can be performed at any stage of cataract development. There is no need to wait until your cataract is “ripe” before removing it. Most people choose to have their cataracts removed when the change in their vision starts to cause them difficulties in everyday life.

Cataract surgery usually takes about 10 – 15 minutes and most people go home from hospital about two hours later. It is done under local anaesthetic, which means you will be awake during the operation but you will not feel any pain. The local anaesthetic usually involves eye drops. Dilation of the pupil is performed with a very small pellet which will slowly dissolve in the eye. After the operation, you will need to put drops into your eyes for a few weeks. Lasers are not used to remove cataracts and there is no evidence to suggest that changing your diet, taking vitamins or using eye drops can cure cataracts.

Can cataracts be prevented?

To date there is no proven method of preventing cataracts. It is very important to have regular eye examinations (every two years for adults and then every year after the age of 50) as conditions that may affect your eye health become increasingly common with age.

Please ask your local optician or doctor if you have any risk factors or indications that cataracts may be affecting your vision.