Cataract Evaluation & Surgeries

doctor and patient eye examination
Cataracts occur when changes within the lens part of the eye cause it to become transparent. When this happens, the patient experiences vision that is cloudy or misted. Cataracts develop over many years, meaning that they are far more often diagnosed when people are much older. However, there are some times when cataracts are found in younger people and this is why your optometrist will evaluate the health of your eyes as well as your eyesight when you go for your routine eye examination.

Symptoms of Cataracts

As well as cloudy or misty vision, there are some other ways in which cataracts affects your ability to see.

Symptoms to be aware of include:
- Double vision
- A yellow or brown tinge to your vision
- Colors that appear to be muted, faded or less clear in any way
- Struggling to see in very bright or dim light
- More experiences of uncomfortable levels of glare from bright lights
- The appearance of a ‘halo’ of light circling actual lights
- Decreased effectiveness of your glasses or contacts

Cataracts are not painful, and you won’t be able to notice anything unusual in the outward appearance of your eyes.

Cataracts don’t necessarily affect both eyes at once. It is possible to get a diagnosis of cataracts in just one of your eyes, but if this is the case, then research suggests that you will have a higher chance of developing them in the other eye too.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, then you should make an appointment with your eye specialist for a complete cataract evaluation.


What happens during a cataract evaluation?

When you book an appointment for a cataract evaluation, you should expect it to take around three hours. During your evaluation, your optometrist will perform thorough checks on your:
- Vision
- Current prescription (if applicable)
- Motilities (how your eyes work together)
- Eye pressures
- The shape and size of your pupils
- How your pupils react
- The curvature of your eyes
As one of the defining symptoms of cataracts is an extreme sensitivity to bright light, your optometrist may also choose to perform a brightness acuity examination.
During your evaluation, your optometrist will need to apply drops to your eyes to dilate them. Some patients report that they experience blurred vision for a short while after the evaluation has finished, and so you may wish to have someone available to pick you up and drive you home after your appointment.
Either before or during your evaluation, your optometrist will need to find out more about your general medical health. You will be asked to provide information such as your medical history, any known allergies, a list of current prescribed medications, any family history of cataracts or other macular conditions, and your insurance details. Ask at the time of making your appointment exactly what paperwork you will need to provide.


Cataract Surgery

If your optometrist finds that you have cataracts, then you will likely be referred for surgery to remove them. Cataract surgery is a relatively straightforward procedure, takes around 30-45 minutes and is very effective. It is normally carried out in a day surgery under local anesthetic. This means that you are conscious during the procedure, but you won’t feel a thing, and you will be able to go home once your surgery is complete.
If you have been diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes, then you will require two separate procedures, one for each eye, with a recovery period between.
Most cataract surgery uses a technique known as phacoemulsification. The procedure for this technique is as follows:
- You will be given a local anesthetic either via drops or a small injection into the soft tissue surrounding the eye, and also given drops to dilate it.
- Your surgeon will make a tiny incision in the transparent layer of tissue at the front of your eye, known as the cornea.
- He will then insert an extremely small probe through this incision. This probe uses ultrasound waves to break up the affected lens, which is then sucked away through a second probe.
- Once all of the broken pieces of affected lens have been removed, your optometrist will insert a small, clear, plastic lens instead. The type of lens used will depend on your individual visual needs and will be recommended by your optometrist. Occasionally the insertion may require a slightly larger incision so that the new lens can be adequately placed. This may mean that you need to receive a few ultra-small stitches which will stay in place for a couple of weeks to ensure that your eye is fully healed before they are removed.

After Surgery

You will be discharged several hours of your operation, and will usually need to wear a pad over your affected eye for at least a few hours after you return home. You will need someone to drive you home, and if possible you should have someone stay with you for around 24 hours after your procedure. You may well experience some discomfort for a few days after the surgery, but over-the-counter pain relief should be sufficient to keep you relatively comfortable.

Complications are extremely rare, but we strongly advise you consult with your optometrist immediately if you have any concerns after your cataract surgery.