What You Should Know About Cataracts

What you should know about cataracts

Everyone has heard of the term ‘cataract’ and most people know someone who has had cataract surgery. But cataract is a term that is very widely misunderstood. When I ask people if they know what a cataract is they invariably reply that it is a skin or film that grows over the eye when you get old.

A better explanation is that just behind the iris and the pupil (which is actually a hole) there lives a lens that can change shape to allow us to focus at different distances. As time goes on, this lens, which is completely transparent at birth, begins to go yellow/brown and cloudy and this is called a cataract. At a certain stage it gets to the point where the cloudiness is affecting the vision so much that a person with the condition needs to have it corrected either by surgery or through the use of prescription eyewear. Thankfully, through the advancements in ophthalmology, safe yet value-for-money contact lenses are readily available.

The video below explains what happens if a person has cataracts.

Cataract surgery has progressed tremendously since the days (WARNING – if you are squeamish, DO NOT carry on reading, skip instead to the next paragraph!) where the local healer would take a hard blunt object, bash the eye of the patient repeatedly until the cloudy lens would get dislodged and then end it off by spitting on the eye of the patient, presumably as a disinfectant to prevent infection. (This procedure may still be carried out in certain tribes in very isolated parts on the world and I actually watched a video of it  many years ago. Two guys had to hold down the patient to stop him from escaping due to the pain. Not something you forget too quickly!)

Nowadays cataract surgery can be carried out as a day case procedure (meaning you don’t stay in hospital overnight), through a very tiny incision, under local anaesthetic (which is good because when a person has a general anaesthetic, it considerably increases the risks to the patient) and a new replacement lens in inserted.

Intraocular Lens (IOL) Implantation

Intraocular lens implantation is a procedure that uses ultrasound to disintegrate the cataract, but there is now an option of using a laser for both the initial incision and the cataract disintegration. After the lens of the eye is removed, the replacement lens is inserted to correct the vision problems. If an intraocular lens is not implanted after the cataract is removed, special contact lenses are prescribed. The patient even has the option to choose prescription contact lenses that enhance eye color naturally.

As an artist, I am very particular about eye health. Vision is important to every artist out there. So for our succeeding updates, this site will also explore the different options for cataract surgery, the advances in intraocular lenses (the replacement lens that is inserted), whether special eye drops can be used to prevent the need for surgery, what are the causes of cataract and whether anything can be done to slow down its progression.

If you would like to ask a specific question about cataracts that you want me to address, or if you would like to share your own or your family member’s experience of cataract surgery, please use the comments section to be in touch!