DID YOU KNOW: Cataracts can be removed easily and vision restored almost immediately

BY CHARL BOSCH - AUGUST 5, 2014

Cataracts are a major cause of blindness across the world. However, they can be treated, and vision restored, if operated on by a competent ophthalmologist, says Dr Deon Doubell at the Eye and Laser Institute in Mill Park, Port Elizabeth.

“A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside the eye and leads to decreased vision. The opacification of the lens obstructs light from passing and being focussed on the retina at the back of the eye,” he explains, adding that most patients have a common misconception as to what a cataract is.

Dr Doubell describes; “The skin that grows over the eye is not a cataract but a pterygium, which develops because of exposure to the elements. Cataracts can be caused by age, injuries, diseases such as diabetes and certain medications like steroids and can be hereditary.”

While cataracts are difficult to detect at their onset, he says you can look out for symptoms like having difficulties in appreciating colours - whites become yellows while blues are filtered, changes in contrasts, struggling with in driving, reading, recognising faces and failing to cope with the glare in bright light.

“The good news is that cataract surgery is one of the most common, quickest and safest forms of surgery. Most patients are able to return to their usual daily routine, 24 hours after the operation,” says Dr Doubell.

“The procedure lasts 30-40 minutes and vision is improved almost immediately. Approximately 90% of patients can achieve functional vision (better than 6/12) after the surgery.”

He says the basic procedure for cataract removal is done by entering the front part of the eye through a small incision, then making a small opening in the thin capsule surrounding the gel-like protein material that forms the cataract.

A thin probe is then inserted into the eye, which delivers ultra sound waves to the lens and softens it. This allows the opaque material to be removed and an artificial lens is then inserted into the capsular bag. The implanted lens is therefore inside the eye and not on the surface, like a contact lens.

“Cataract operations are mostly done under local anaesthetic – that is done by means of placing drops of the anaesthetic agent, with or sometimes without an anaesthetic injection, adjacent to the eye. A sedative is given before the anaesthetic is given and patients are mostly not aware of any unpleasant experience,” he assures.

Do you, a family member or friend suffer from a cataract? Find out more by calling the Eye & Laser Institute on 041 373 0682.