Cataracts form when the natural lens in your eye becomes cloudy and begins to impair your vision. Learn more about what cataracts are and how we can help treat the condition at Ultralase.
What are cataracts?
As you get older, the natural lens in your eye becomes cloudy as the proteins in the lens gradually clump together. This problem usually occurs when you’re in your 60s or 70s and it gradually grows worse over time.
The development of cataracts will interfere with the way light passes through the eye, resulting in blurred vision. This blurred vision cannot be rectified with prescription glasses or contact lenses – the only option for removing cataracts is to undergo cataract surgery.
What happens in cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery involves the removal of the cloudy lens. This procedure is pain free, and performed under a local anaesthetic. You will be free to leave the clinic on the day of your procedure, recover from the comfort of your own home, and return to the clinic only for check-up appointments in the days after treatment.
The cataract surgery process is as follows:
- A small incision, not even 3mm in length, is made in the side of the eye. This incision is so small that you will not require stitches and it will heal naturally.
- Ultrasound vibrations are used to loosen the contents in the lens, and a very small suction tube is used to extract it.
- Your cataract is now removed.
- The new lens will then be inserted in place of your old lens.
- We do not perform bilateral procedures for a cataract removal. Each eye will be treated separately, with a minimum of a week in between, diary dependent. This is for safety reasons and to minimise the risk of infection.
- Surgery time is around 20 minutes per eye.
- You will be given time in the recovery room prior to being checked over and allowed to go home.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
In the early stages of its development, you might not even know that you have a cataract forming. An optometrist will likely be able to spot the beginnings of a cataract in your eye before you’re actually experiencing any symptoms. However, any of the below symptoms could be an indication of cataracts:
- Clouded or blurred vision
- Dimmed or faded colour vision
- Occasional double vision in one eye
- Changes to your glasses prescription
- Halos appearing around lights
- Light sensitivity
- Impaired night vision
If you begin to experience any of these changes to your vision, it’s always a good idea to get your eyes checked by an expert. Even if your vision doesn’t feel impaired yet, it’s good to know whether or not you have the beginnings of a cataract in your eye so that you can plan for future treatment.
When should you have cataracts removed?
If left untreated for long enough, cataracts can impair your vision severely. In some cases involving long NHS waiting lists, some patients have such little vision left that they are counted as legally blind before they even have their treatment.
Ideally, you should have your cataracts removed as soon as possible. Once you have your eye’s natural lens extracted and an artificial one inserted, you cannot develop another cataract. Therefore, there is no medical reason to delay your cataract treatment once you know that you need the surgery.
At Ultralase, patients are usually treated around 4-6 weeks after their first consultation. We take all the relevant results from the eye tests conducted at your first appointment and use the information to have lenses specially made for your visual requirements. Once these have been manufactured, we can proceed to treatment day.
Cataract patients are often suffering severely with poor vision, so we try to treat anyone who comes to us with a cataract as quickly as possible.
Can you wait too long to have cataract surgery?
Simply, yes! As we’ve previously mentioned, if you leave your cataracts too long before seeking treatment, your vision may be completely impaired by the time you come in for treatment. It’s important to not let your vision deteriorate to this level as it is completely avoidable and impacts your life so heavily.
Can you get rid of cataracts without surgery?
No. Unfortunately, there are no natural cures for cataracts. However, cataract surgery is the most widely performed elective procedure globally, and the World Health Organisation also regards it as the safest surgery. It has been performed hundreds of millions of times across the world, and we have performed cataract treatment tens of thousands of times here at Ultralase too. Rest assured you’re in safe hands here!
How long do you need off work after cataract surgery?
Recovery after cataract surgery varies from person to person. However, most Ultralase patients will need at least a week off work after cataract surgery. This is to allow your eyes to rest and heal properly, and to make sure that you have reached a good level of vision following the replacement of your lenses.
You will need to visit us 1-2 days after surgery for an initial check-up, as well as 7-10 days later and between 4-6 weeks later. It is important that you take the time to attend these appointments as we need to ensure that your eyes are healing as expected. You should anticipate being out of your normal routine for 1-2 weeks after cataract surgery, although most patients do experience improvement in vision within a couple of days.
How can you prevent cataracts from getting worse?
Once cataracts have begun forming, there is no way to undo the process or make them disappear. It is thought, however, that you can slow the process of cataracts’ formation with a number of lifestyle adjustments. These include:
- Keeping away from UV rays
- Eating a healthy diet of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and fish
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Cutting down on alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Making sure you’re well hydrated
Ensuring these elements are part of your daily life should not only help prevent the onset of cataracts, but also slow their progression once they are already present. If you know you have early-stage cataracts which are not yet impairing your vision, you can try implementing some of the above lifestyle adjustments to slow the formation. However, you will still need cataract surgery in order to restore full vision.
Is it better to have cataract surgery early?
Yes. Once cataracts are present, they will only progress and worsen over time, further impairing your vision. It is a good idea to research your surgery options and visit different providers whilst your vision is still good, so you can make a fully informed, independent decision without rely on the care of others.
What is the average age for cataract surgery?
Most people develop cataracts in their 60s or 70s, so most Ultralase cataract patients are around this age. In fact, cataracts are so common that over 70% of people aged 80% have cataracts. Typically, patients with more severe cataracts tend to be older as the condition has progressed more, while younger patients have early cataracts and therefore usually can still see unimpaired before their treatment.
How much does cataract surgery cost?
The cost of cataract surgery at Ultralase varies depending on which type of lens you choose to have fitted. The cheapest option is a monofocal lens which provides no vision correction benefits, aside from removing the cataract itself. However, multifocal lenses provide good vision at near, medium and distant visual ranges, allowing you to live life without glasses, as well as having your cataract removed simultaneously.
Your optometrist at Ultralase will discuss the benefits and risks of each of these types of procedures with you before you decide which type of lens is best suited to you and your lifestyle requirements.
Are there any other treatments associated with cataracts removal?
If you are interested in fixing the prescription that you had prior to your cataract removal, mono or multifocal lens replacement may be an option. Learn more about lens surgery here.
Is it possible for cataracts to spread from one eye to the other?
It's not possible for cataracts to spread from one eye to the other, but they can develop simultaneously in both eyes.
What is used to remove the cataract?
Cataracts are removed by a process called 'Phacomulsification', which is where a cataract is broken up by ultrasound. It is then liquefied and suctioned out, before being replaced with an artificial lens.
Are there complications in cataract surgery?
Dealing with complications with cataract surgery is very rare, however like all surgical procedures, eye surgery is not 100% risk free. Despite the number being low, risk of infection is around 1 in 5000 patients.
To combat this, Ultralase ensure that the operating room is completely sterile, which is designed to minimise the risk of infection as much as possible. At every aftercare appointment, your eyes will be thoroughly checked for any signs of infection.
At Ultralase, over 95% of cataract and lens surgery patients achieve driving standard vision after their treatment!
* We do require a £10 holding fee for a weekday consultation or a £30 holding fee for a Saturday, which will be refunded straight back to you after you have attended. There is no obligation to go ahead with treatment once you have had your consultation.