Eye Conditions and Treatments

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Cataracts

>Close Introduction

As a world-renowned centre for eye treatments, dealing with well over 20,000 patients every year, Moorfields has extensive experience dealing with cataracts.

The good news is that cataracts need not permanently impair your vision, and you will not go blind from a cataract. But when cloudiness makes normal daily activities difficult, it is definitely time to get the cataract operated on.

Moorfields Private offers the highest standard of care for cataracts, in a pleasant and relaxing environment. A simple operation will restore your sight, and your daily life will quickly return to normal – find out more here, or contact us directly, to learn more about how Moorfields Private's expertise can help you understand your treatment options for cataracts.

Inside the eye, behind the iris (the coloured part of the eye) is a lens. In the normal eye, the lens is clear or transparent, and helps to focus light rays on to the the retina at the back of the eye.

When a cataract develops, the lens becomes cloudy and prevents the light rays passing onto the retina. The picture that the retina receives becomes dull and fuzzy. Cataracts usually form slowly and people experience a gradual blurring of vision. Symptoms often develop very gradually over months or years.

Once you have been diagnosed and your cataract progresses to the point that it is interfering with daily activities and normal lifestyle, it is time to remove the cataract.

>Close Symptoms

Symptoms usually develop over many years, most commonly in older people but very short sighted people (myopes) and diabetics tend to get cataracts much earlier in life. Gradually, more of the lens in your eye becomes cloudy. If your cataracts are mild, you may not notice any symptoms to start with.

If you have cataracts in both eyes, one eye may be more affected than the other. Blurred, cloudy or misty vision is the most common symptom of age-related cataracts. In the early stages, a cataract may cause unpredictable changes in your spectacle prescription.

The symptoms of cataract are often affected by the light. For example, you may find it more difficult to see:

if the light is dim or when the sun is low in the sky or

  • when the light is bright, such as on a very sunny day or in bright artificial light.

Other ways that cataracts may affect your sight can include:

  • the glare from bright lights may be dazzling or uncomfortable to look at,
  • colours may look faded or less clear, and
  • reading, watching TV and other daily activities may be more difficult than they used to be.

If you wear glasses, you may find that they have become less effective. Less commonly, you may see a halo (a circle of light) around bright lights such as car headlights or street lights.

The symptoms of cataracts can be similar to the symptoms of other eye conditions. It is therefore important to see your optician (optometrist) or GP for a check-up.

A rare symptom of cataracts is double vision (seeing two images of an object instead of one).

>Close Causes

The causes of age-related cataracts are not known. Research suggests that genetic, nutritional and environmental factors may increase the risk that cataracts will develop.

Changes to the lens in the eye

As people grow older, there can be changes to the protein that makes up the lens in the eye. Some experts think that this may be linked to how fluids and nutrients reach the eye. These changes in the lens protein can lead to cloudy areas developing.

It is not known how or why getting older causes these changes to happen.

Other causes

In younger people, cataracts may have other less common causes. For example:

  • diabetes (people who have diabetes tend to develop cataracts at an earlier age),
  • injuries or previous surgery to the eye, and

other eye conditions, such as uveitis (inflammation of the uveal tract in the eye).

>Close Risk factors

Research suggests that some factors may increase the risk of age-related cataracts developing.

For example:

  • a history of cataracts in your family,
  • systemic diseases such as diabetes,,
  • lifestyle factors, such as smoking or a poor diet,
  • overexposing your eyes to sunlight, and
  • taking steroid medicines for a long time.

>Close Treatment

The most common treatment for cataracts is an operation to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear artificial replacement. This treatment is quick, and can greatly improve vision.

Surgery is the only effective way of removing the cloudy lens. It cannot, for instance, be removed by laser, change in diet, or pills. In some parts of the world it is possible to buy pills to help prevent cataracts, but there is no proof that these work.

You will be given an appointment shortly before your operation, when a nurse in the outpatients department will carry out special tests to measure your eye. One of these is a test called 'biometry' which helps decide the strength of lens that will replace the cloudy lens in your eye. The nurse will organise any tests for your general health, to make sure you are healthy enough for surgery, such as blood tests and electrocardiograph (ECG) if needed.

If you have cataract developing in both eyes, you will not have treatment to both eyes at the same time. It is common for cataract to develop more quickly in one eye than the other, and usually, the more seriously affected eye is operated on first, although the timing of an operation is decided by the ophthalmologist.
Usually you will be given anesthetic drops on your eyes to make them numb, and you will be awake throughout the operation. Over 90% of all cataract surgery performed in the UK is now done under local anesthetic.
The operation usually takes about 15-30 minutes. Your surgeon will remove the cloudy lens by making a tiny opening into the eye at the edge of the cornea. Through this, the surgeon will remove the cloudy lens and insert a clear plastic implant lens, which will allow you to see again.

Cataract Surgery is nowadays a procedure that does increase spectacles independence since the advent of the so called premium artificial lenses. We will be able to reduce your need for glasses by correcting any refractive error or pre-existing high astigmatism or even allowing good vision for both distance and near by using appropriately multifocal, toric multifocal or toric implants.

However, please note that your suitability for those premioum lenses will be discussed at the time of your consultations since the premium lenses can have unpleasant side effects and careful counselling is needed to ascertain your suitability for them . Also a specific discussion about risks and benefit as well as complications is mandatory.

Most operations for cataract are performed on a day care basis. This means that you are admitted to hospital, have your operation and are discharged home all in the same day.

>Close Further information and support

RNIB
0845 766 9999
Textphone users dial 18001 first
http://www.rnib.org.uk

Royal College of Ophthalmologists
http://www.rcophth.ac.uk
(See "Information for the general public")

>Close What Next

You do not need a GP’s written referral letter to see a Moorfields Private consultant. If you know which consultant you would like to see, please contact their private secretary to make an appointment or receive further information, alternatively, email us at enquires@moorfields-private.co.uk

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