Cataract is one of the most common causes of vision loss. A cataract has formed when the natural lens inside the eye has become opaque or cloudy. The condition causes a blurring of vision with the effects generally progressive in nature.
- What are the causes of cataracts?
- What symptoms do cataracts cause?
Cataracts cause progressive blurred vision
- How do I know if I have cataracts?
Cataracts can be diagnosed by your optometrist or general practitioner. You may be referred to an ophthalmologist for an opinion regarding cataract surgery.
- What is the treatment for cataracts?
When a cataract has become symptomatic, the recommended treatment is surgery.
Cataract surgery involves removing the cataract from the eye and replacing it with an artificial lens implant – the implant stays in the same position inside the eye for the rest of the patient’s life, and remains clear.
The procedure is performed through a small (2mm) incision on the side of the eye. Stitches are rarely required.
The procedure is generally performed under local anaesthetic, eyedrops and intravenous sedation.
This is a permanent fix for the cataract, which will not grow back after surgery.
- Do I have to stay in hospital after cataract surgery?
Most patients have cataract surgery performed as a day surgery procedure. However, arrangements can be made for admission for an overnight stay after surgery when circumstances indicate the need.
- Will I experience pain after cataract surgery?
Most patients experience either no pain or only minor discomfort. Mild discomfort is usually relieved by minor analgesics such as Panadol. Occasionally more severe discomfort is experienced – if you have ongoing pain not relieved by Panadol please phone Dr Seawright on the mobile phone number supplied with the post-operative information supplied on the day of surgery.
- What do I need to do after surgery?
The eye needs to be examined the next morning, generally by Dr Seawright at St Vincent’s Medical Centre. In some circumstances arrangements can be made for patients from outlying centres to have their Day 1 examination performed by their local optometrist. Patients are also checked after one week, either by examination at St Vincent’s, or by phone consultation. Patients need to be treated with anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eyedrops several times per day, usually for three weeks forllowing each cataract surgery procedure. Once surgery and the eyedrop regime are completed, patients are advised to follow-up with their optometrist for glasses adjustment, if required.
- Can I drive after surgery?
We advise patients to not drive for 5-7 days following surgery. Many patients are then able to drive without glasses or with sunglasses only, but some will need to wait until after their glasses have been adjusted by their optometrist.
- Will I need glasses after cataract surgery?
For distance vision most patients need either a small refractive correction or no glasses. Your optometrist may prescribe glasses for distance vision but you may only need to wear these in certain situations such as night driving or reading small print on a television screen. Most patients will need reading glasses for near visual tasks, such as reading small print, after cataract surgery. Selected patients have multifocal lens implants, and many of these patients do not require any glasses after cataract surgery.
- Are there any possible complications after cataract surgery?
Any surgical procedure carries a risk of complications. Statistics indicate 99% of patients undergoing cataract surgery do not experience any significant complications, however about 1% of patients may require further surgery to rectify a surgical complication. Most of these patients have a good outcome. However, 1 to 2 in 1000 patients undergoing cataract surgery may find they have worse vision following surgery due to a more severe complication such as an infection or complicated retinal detachment. Dr Seawright will fully explain the risks and likelihood of complications when recommending surgery. About 5% of patients undergoing cataract surgery develop clouding of the clear skin behind the lens implant inside the eye and experience symptomatic visual deterioration. This can occur often months or even years after surgery. This can be corrected by a laser procedure, which is performed as an outpatient procedure in Dr Seawright’s rooms. This procedure is quick and painless, and generally does not require a repeat. Your optometrist will be able to diagnose this condition and advise you whether you require a “laser capsulotomy” if you feel there has been visual deterioration after cataract surgery.
- What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease in which there is a characteristic pattern of progressive loss of vision associated with progressive damage to the optic nerve in the back of the eye. This is usually but not always associated with high pressure in the eye.
- How common is glaucoma?
The prevalence of glaucoma increases with age. It is uncommon below the age of 40 years of age, however about 5-6% of patients over 70 years of age have glaucoma.
- How do I know if I might have glaucoma?
Some patients with glaucoma may become aware of loss of peripheral vision, however most people are unaware that they have glaucoma in the earlier stages. The condition is usually diagnosed after being suspected on screening examinations performed by your optometrist or doctor. It is recommended to have screening examinations performed at least every few years, over the age of 40 years, particularly if there is a strong family history of glaucoma.
- Does glaucoma run in families?
Glaucoma can run in some families, but there are many patients with glaucoma who have no known family history of this condition.
- What tests are done for glaucoma?
The pressure in the eye is measured, using several different methods. Peripheral visual field testing is an office test that takes about 10 minutes to do. Some patients also have photography and laser scanning of the optic nerve in the eye.
- Is there a cure for glaucoma?
At this time there is no cure for glaucoma, however the condition can usually be controlled with a variety of treatment modalities.
- How is glaucoma treated?
Most patients with glaucoma are treated with eyedrops. These eyedrops are usually required every day, and in most patients for life. Some patients require laser treatment either in addition to or instead of eyedrops. Very occasionally some patients require glaucoma surgery.
- What follow-up will I need for my glaucoma?
Many patients with glaucoma need a glaucoma check every six to 12 months, occasionally more frequently. The follow-up of some patients is a collaborative management shared between their ophthalmologist and their therapeutics accredited-optometrist.
- Will I go blind from glaucoma?
If glaucoma is allowed to progress it is a potentially blinding condition. If patients have regular follow-up examinations as directed by their ophthalmologist, progression of glaucoma is usually prevented.
- What is Macular Degeneration?
Macular Degeneration causes loss or disturbance to the centre of the visual field of the eye, the part of vision used for reading and recognizing facial features.
- Does Macular Degeneration run in families?
Macular Degeneration can run in families, but many patients with macular degeneration have no known family history of this condition. Some lifestyle factors are thought to affect your chances of developing this condition.
- What symptoms does Macular Degeneration cause?
In mild MD there may be tiny blind spots or distortion at or near the centre of the visual field of the eye. In more severe MD there may be blind areas in or near the centre of the visual field of the eye.
- How do I know if I have Macular Degeneration?
You may become aware of blurring or distortion of the centre of vision with either eye. Your optometrist or doctor may be able to diagnose Macular Degeneration and may refer you to an Ophthalmologist for a further opinion.
- Can it be prevented?
There is much ongoing research in this area. Lifestyle factors are important such as your diet. Supplementary multivitamins may be recommended. Cigarette smoking is thought to increase the chances of developing Macular Degeneration.
- What treatments are available for Macular Degeneration?
For many cases of the “wet” type of Macular Degeneration, injections into the eye (performed under local anaesthetic) of a specialized medicine can slow or halt progressive damage to the vision, or even improve the central vision. In some cases, laser is indicated.
- Will I go blind from Macular Degeneration?
This condition affects the central vision, from mild blurring or distortion in milder cases to central blind spots or areas in more advanced cases. Macular Degeneration does not affect your peripheral vision, i.e. the vision used to be aware of obstacles to the sides or below, e.g. while walking.
- Are there any support services available for patients with Macular Degeneration?
There are several support services available for patients with macular degeneration, e.g. The Macular Degeneration Foundation