A cataract is a cloudy lens that causes the vision to become misty and foggy. In the early stages, cataract can sometimes cause increasing short-sightedness. The cloudiness gets worse until the vision is too foggy to see, but most people have the cataracts operated on well before this. Cataracts are common and up to 60% of all 60 year olds having some early signs of cataracts and 100% of those over the age of 80 having some cataracts. The symptoms of cataracts include blurring of vision and glare in bright or sunny conditions. Cataracts only need to be operated on if they are causing visual problems. The main cause of cataract is genetic, it runs in families. There are other causes of cataract such as injury, the use of steroid tablets, steroid inhalers and creams (around the eye) as well as other eye diseases and previous eye surgery. Sunlight may have a role in the aetiology of cataract although this has not been proven.
The procedure is usually carried out as a day-case procedure under local anaesthesia, often with a small amount of short-acting sedation and it is not painful (no needles!). The surgery typically takes 15-20 minutes. In cases of bilateral cataract, both eyes are not usually operated on the same day, but 1-2 weeks apart. Mr Ionides operates on Thursday mornings with the list beginning at 10.30am and patients are admitted to the Cumberlege Wing on the top floor of the main Moorfields Eye Hospital at about 9am on the day of surgery.
After the surgery, patients have an eye patch protecting the operated eye and return to the ward. The nursing staff will give them the post-operative drops and discuss what they can and cannot do in the next few days/weeks owing to the surgery. It is generally recommended to have a week off work following the surgery although most people are able to carry on with most daily tasks after a couple of days. Some of the drops can sting for a few seconds, particularly the Acular and Maxidex drops. Occasionally the eye can be painful in the few hours after surgery, but simple pain relief tablets when you get back home can help with this. Mr Ionides will call you the next day but you will have his mobile number in case of any questions. There will also be one or more follow up appointments back in the clinic for the post-operative scans and refraction.
The femtosecond laser is sometimes used during cataract surgery and performs some of the steps involved in cataract surgery. Moorfields has a femtosecond laser for use with cataract surgery and is currently in the process of undertaking a study into the risks and benefits of the femtosecond laser in cataract surgery. If you have any questions about the surgery or your suitability please email Alexander Ionides or call Leigh McEvoy on 02075662414. For further information visit our FAQ page.