What is a cataract?
A cataract is the term given to any opacification of the natural crystalline lens in the eye. Most cataracts develop slowly and they increasingly impair vision over time. There is no cure for cataracts. They can only be removed by surgery and at the same time a small lens implant (usually acrylic) is placed inside the eye to focus the light on your retina.
How do I know that I have a cataract?
Cataracts mostly develop slowly, and in both eyes, so you may not be aware that you have them. You might have noticed increasing difficulty with visual tasks such as reading and driving, especially in more dimly lit environments. You might have reduced contrast sensitivity or symptoms of glare. Spectacles will not fix the cataract and you may feel dissatisfaction with a new pair in the presence of cataracts. This is common.
Do I have to have cataract surgery?
Cataracts do not damage the eye in normal situations and deciding to have a cataract operation is a decision you will make in conjunction with Dr. Kert. It is quite safe to postpone cataract surgery if you are unsure about proceeding or feel that the cataract is not troubling you. With a cataract in your eye your vision will decline slowly over a period of 1-3 years and Dr. Kert will ask you to return within that time for a review. Your other option is to proceed with cataract surgery, an operation to remove the cloudy opacified cataract and replace it with a clear lens implant.
There is no medicine or natural remedy that will remove or dissolve a cataract.
What will happen to me before cataract surgery?
You will have a meeting with Dr. Kert and she will discuss your cataracts with you. You will then have some measurements done on your eyes to determine what size lens to implant in your eye. We usually do measurements on both eyes at the same time. Please stay on all your normal medications pre-operatively including aspirin and warfarin.
You will be given information about the timing of surgery. Most people have one eye operated on, followed by the second eye 2-4 weeks later.
Cataract surgery is a 'once in a lifetime' event and does not need to be repeated. The lens implant lasts a lifetime and is not biodegradeable.
What will happen to me on the day of surgery?
Cataract surgery is performed in the day surgery unit at St Andrew’s Toowoomba Hospital. While there is no need to stay overnight, some patients who live alone may choose to spend one or two nights in hospital. Usually you will be in the day hospital unit for about three hours in total. The surgery takes 20-30 minutes and is performed under local anaesthetic with sedation or twilight anaesthetic. You will be sleepy during the operation, but will feel no pain or discomfort. It is normal to feel a little anxious before the operation however we will make sure you are comfortable and relaxed when you come to have your surgery.
After surgery you will go home with a clear plastic shield over the eye and you will have instructions regarding eye drops. It is expected that the eye will feel a little bit gritty or mildly uncomfortable for a day or so after surgery.
Complications of Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is well tolerated.
Most people will have a 99% chance of seeing better following surgery. This will not be the case if you have a pre-existing eye condition such as macular degeneration or glaucoma and Dr. Kert will alert you to this if it applies to you.
One in a hundred (1/100) patients may experience a minor complication that is inconvenient and may require further non-routine intervention such as a second operation, prolonged post operative eyedrops or further non-routine management that is annoying but not dangerous.
One in a thousand (1/1000) people will have a major complication such as infection, bleeding or a major intra-operative complication.
Everything possible will be done to minimise the chance of complications. If you have a serious complication you will most likely need a second operation possibly in Brisbane and sometimes involving a stay in hospital for a week or two while your eye recovers. You can rarely become blind or lose your eye following cataract surgery, but this is extremely rare. This is the reason that your cataract surgery will be performed one eye at a time.
Please feel free to contact Dr. Kert’s rooms at any time if you have further questions.