Cataract Surgery: everything you need to know
Today, cataract surgery is one of the most common medical procedures performed in the UK, and though it may strike you as daunting or even frightening, it is a much safer and straightforward operation than most people realise.
Susceptibility and symptoms
The procedure is most commonly performed on people over the age of 50, who are more susceptible to cataracts (which is associated with partial loss of vision).
It is often merely a byproduct of the natural ageing process, however cataracts can often be caused by trauma, or simply your genetic make-up.
Things like smoking have also been linked to cataracts, so if you're looking for another excuse to go cold turkey, this could be the motivation you need.
The most obvious symptom of cataracts is blurred vision, but there are other abnormalities in your sight that should concern you as well. Things like finding it difficult to see at night, or finding that colours are difficult to see, or you find it difficult to recognise faces are also potential warning signs.
The numbers suggest that about half of those who reach the age of 80 will develop cataracts at some point - so if you do experience anything out of the ordinary it's well worth visiting your GP.
Having seen so many cases of it, they will probably be able to diagnose you and put you on the road to recovery on your first visit.
Even if you think you are able to cope with blurred vision, it is important that you take action before the situation deteriorates. Cataracts can increase your risk of falling as well as, more generally, depression and other mental health problems associated with loneliness and isolation.
What does it involve?
The procedure itself is a relatively simple one that sounds much more scary and complex than it actually is.
It essentially involves cutting and removing the blurry (natural) lens from your eye and then placing an artificial lens in its place.
After this is complete, the doctors will close the incision they made and take measures to protect your eye during your recovery time.
In most cases, this will not require an over night stay, and you will be free to leave the hospital on the day of your surgery, provided you have a loved one to escort you home after you are discharged.
As with any invasive medical procedure, there are some risks involved, but doctors are able to minimise these with new approaches which allow them to make only a small incision in the eye.
As above, you will need someone to drive you home after your procedure (which should take no more than 15 or 20 minutes, although you will probably need a spare afternoon for your visit to the hospital).
You will probably be prescribed eye drops to use over the course of the next few weeks, and you will also need to wear the aforementioned protective shield in order to prevent infection or exposure related complications.
Your doctor will tell you exactly the extent of your recovery period, but in general it is recommended that you avoid any strenuous exercise in the immediate weeks that follow your procedure. You also need to take precautions to ensure you do not splash water in your eye.
More specific concerns about your recovery, including any pre-existing health conditions that you feel are relevant, should be discussed directly with your surgeon.