Cataracts are caused by the lens inside your eye becoming clouded over time. This happens to everyone eventually, though it can happen sooner in people who have diabetes, have been exposed to a lot of UV light, or have had trauma to the eye.
The most common symptom of cataracts is blurred vision. Other common symptoms are: glare from lights at night, eg. while driving when it’s dark; colours looking different (eg. what looks cream to you may seem white to someone else); haloes around lights.
If you notice any of these symptoms, please contact us to arrange an appointment.
If you have cataracts, your optometrist will let you know during your sight test. In the early stages, nothing needs to be done except to have the eyesight and eye health monitored. Eventually, though, the cataract will need to be removed with surgery.
If you require referral, your optometrist will ask you to return on another day for a followup appointment. During that appointment, they will put drops in the eyes which will make your vision blurred – therefore you should not drive to that appointment. At this appointment they will double check their findings and discuss the cataract surgery procedure with you, allowing you time to ask any questions that you might have. Following this appointment, they will refer you to a consultant ophthalmologist for cataract surgery.
You can choose between being referred on the NHS, or privately. The NHS waiting list in Cardiff and Vale Health Board is currently about two years long, though they are working hard to bring this time down. If you would prefer to go privately, you will generally be seen within two months.
At the assessment you will be asked about your vision problems and their effect on your quality of life. The ophthalmologist and their team will examine your eyes and take some measurements of your eye (Biometry) to help them decide which lens would give you the best vision. They will take this into account when selecting the plastic implant lens that will be inserted during the operation. A nurse will go through some relevant health checks and talk you through the procedure and answer any questions you may have.
If surgery is offered and you decide to go ahead, a date will be arranged for surgery.
The surgery will normally take 10-20 minutes. Most cataract operations are performed under a local anaesthetic, so you’ll be awake. Most people say that they can only see a bright light during surgery, while some say that they see a little bit of movement (though nothing specific). Your ophthalmologist and anaesthetist will make sure you don’t feel anything, as well as talking you through everything they’re doing.
Your ophthalmologist will make a very small cut in the eye to remove the cataract and then replace it with an artificial lens. In most cases stitches aren’t needed. After the operation, you’ll initially need to keep your eye covered to protect it from any accidental damage. You can go home the same day, but you won’t be able to drive. Someone will need to look after you for about 24 hours after your procedure.
After cataract surgery, you will be mobile, but you will need to make sure that you rest. It’s normal to experience some itchiness, sticky eyelids, or fluid discharge during this time.
Mild discomfort can be managed by taking paracetamol as advised. After a few days even mild discomfort should begin to disappear, and in most cases, healing will take about two to six weeks.
During recovery you’ll need to wear a plastic shield at night to protect the eye when sleeping. You’ll also need to use eye drops for about four weeks to reduce inflammation and prevent infection.
Your ophthalmologist will discuss all these details with you during your appointment and will advise on the follow-up care they recommend. Unless you are a complex case, this is usually provided by optometrists (like us!) four weeks after your surgery.