In the early stages where there are often no or minimal vision concerns, cataracts are monitored every 6 to 12 months by your optometrist.
In cases where the cataract starts to affect the vision (blurred vision not correctable with new spectacles, frequent spectacle prescription changes, doubling or haloes and glare sensitivity), removal of the cataracts may be indicated. In certain eye health conditions such as risk of angle-closure glaucoma with high eye pressure, cataract surgery may be recommended. (1) The only treatment for cataracts is surgical removal. There are no medications, optical devices, or exercises to improve vision loss caused by cataract. (2)
Cataract surgery is a relatively safe, common procedure performed around the world and the most common eye surgery in Australia. (3) Our optometrists assist in organising a referral when cataract surgery is needed and explaining the process.
The most common type of cataract surgery is phacoemulsification surgery. This involves a small incision in the cornea (the clear dome at the front of the eye). (4) A fine instrument is used to break up/dissolve the cataract and this is suctioned out. (4) An artificial lens is placed in your natural lens bag. (4) Often no stitches are required and the small incision at the front heals. This is performed under twilight sedation and the procedure takes 20-30 minutes. Often you head back home the same day, and are prescribed antiobiotics and antiflammatory eye drops to use for the next month or so. The vision improvement is often immediate, and the eyes may feel more dry for a period of time after surgery.
Your ophthalmologist (eye surgeon) will go into more detail about the process taking into account your eye health, general health and medications, current spectacle prescription and vision goals. For those who have always worn glasses, cataract surgery can offer the option of being spectacle free with newer artificial lenses.
- The latest technology in the artificial lenses (called intraocular lenses) has progressed past offering the basic single-focus distance lenses which require reading spectacles (or vice versa) or monovision (1 eye for far vision, 1 eye for near vision). Today there is also the options of
- extended focus (correction for far, intermediation and some near vision simultaneously) or
- multifocal (correction for far and near vision).
The latest intraocular lenses offer less spectacle dependence for tasks such as reading, however often involve a longer brain adaptation period. (5,6) Similar to multifocal contact lenses, people with multifocal intraocular lenses may experience haloes around their vision at night, particularly in the first 3 months.(5,6) If you are a candidate for these implants, your specialist will discuss these in detail with you. If you have other eye conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma or general health conditions such as diabetes, your specialist may not recommend these intraocular lenses.
If you have any questions regarding cataracts and your options, feel free to see one of our optometrists for an eye check and further discussion.
- Nolan W. Lens extraction in primary angle closure. Br J Ophthalmol. 2006;90(1):1-2.
- Gupta VB, Rajagopala M, Ravishankar B. Etiopathogenesis of cataract: an appraisal. Indian J Ophthalmol. 2014;62(2):103-10.
- West SK Looking forward to 20/20: a focus on the epidemiology of eye diseases. Epidemiol Rev2000;2264- 70
- C. Erie, Jay. (2014). Rising Cataract Surgery Rates: Demand and Supply. Ophthalmology. 121. 2–4. 10.1016/j.ophtha.2013.10.002.
- Niels E. de Vries, Rudy M.M.A. Nuijts. Multifocal intraocular lenses in cataract surgery: Literature review of benefits and side effects. Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery, Volume 39, Issue 2, 2013, pp. 268-278
- Jorge L. Alio et al. Multifocal intraocular lenses: An overview. Survey of Ophthalmology, Volume 62, Issue 5, 2017, pp. 611-634
Natalie Buckman is a clinical optometrist, educator, professional leader and ophthalmic medicines prescriber, who enjoys exploring the world and hitting the dance floor in her spare time.