Cataract Surgery Aftercare – Things To Make The Recovery Go Smooth

Despite cataract surgery typically being considered a very safe, effective procedure, many patients
still have qualms about undergoing an eye operation. Common fears include complications occurring
during the surgery and the potential for losing further vision, and also the amount of time taken for
cataract surgery recovery.

While there is always the potential for an unexpected complication popping up during the cataract
surgery
recovery period no matter what you do, there are ways you can minimise this risk and make
your post-operative healing process as smooth and uneventful as possible after your cataract
surgery.

 

Cataract Surgery in a Nutshell

About 60 000 cataract surgery procedures are performed every day around the world. In the
Western world, success rates of this operation are very high, effectively restoring vision to pre-
cataract levels and sometimes even correcting your need for glasses or contact lenses in the process.

A cataract is an opacity of the lens inside the eye. Although there are several possible causes of
cataract, increasing age is the most common factor, causing this lens to gradually lose its
transparency and resulting in foggy or blurred vision.

Cataract surgery is an operation that removes, or extracts, this hazy, opaque lens from inside the eye
and replaces it with a clear implant. The procedure is performed as day surgery and usually is over in
about 15-20 minutes per eye.

Your eye will be numbed with a local anaesthetic injection or topical anaesthetic eye drops. A small
incision is then made in the cornea, the clear front surface of the eyeball. Through this incision, the
ophthalmologist can insert the instruments needed to break up the cataract into fragments small
enough to be suctioned out from the eye. The incision is also used to insert the implant, known as an
intraocular lens. The incision is designed to self-seal during the cataract surgery recovery period so
no stitches are required.

After your cataract surgery, aftercare instructions will be given to you by your ophthalmologist and
clinical care team. It’s important to follow these instructions in order to minimise your risk of
complications as much as possible.

 

Cataract Surgery Aftercare

guidelines cataract surgery aftercare melbourneMany cataract surgeons will conduct a few aftercare appointments to ensure your cataract surgery
recovery is going as expected. This exact schedule may differ depending on your surgeon or how
your operation went, but for uncomplicated procedures, you’re likely to have a review exam a day
after your surgery, a week after, and about a month after.

The following cataract surgery aftercare guidelines are a general guide only; your eye surgeon may have more specific instructions to your situation.

 

Use your prescribed eye drops

After your operation, your ophthalmologist will prescribe you two or
three different eye drop medications. These are often a corticosteroid, an antibiotic, and sometimes
also a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. Your recommended dosing schedule is likely to change over
the three or four weeks you’re using these drops, such as using them four times a day for the first
week, then twice a day for the following week, etc. Your ophthalmologist and pharmacist should be
able to write these instructions out clearly for you but if you think you may get confused then be
sure to ask questions or take notes during your appointment. It’s important to stick to the
medication regime through to the end even if your eye feels back to normal quickly. If you’re
experiencing dryness or grittiness in your eyes post-operatively, your ophthalmologist may also
advise you to use lubricant eye drops to help you feel more comfortable.

 

Keep your eye clean

While avoiding dirt and dust in the eye is an obvious recommendation, it may
not be as common to think of other activities as a potential source of infection. Swimming pools,
saunas, spas, and even the shower are unsterile sources of water. While showering and good
hygiene is still important, your ophthalmologist may recommend you avoid swimming and hot tubs
for several weeks after your procedure. Soaps, shampoos, and makeup should also not go near the
operated eye for about a month, so use clean water only to wash your face.
Protect the eye. It goes without saying to protect your eye against any bumps and bruises while it’s
healing. Immediately after your surgery, you’ll go home with a plastic eye shield. Your
ophthalmologist may suggest you wear this overnight for at least a week to avoid accidentally
rubbing your eye during sleep.

 

Rest as needed

As your body heals, try to rest physically for the few days following surgery. If you’re
experiencing some pain or discomfort around the eye, you may take painkillers as required if you’ve
not been advised otherwise. It’s also recommended to avoid strenuous activities, such as exercise,
sports, lifting heavy objects, or physically demanding housework.

 

Immediately after your cataract surgery, you can use your vision as much as feels comfortable

Using your sight will not affect your eye healing during your cataract surgery aftercare period but you may
find your eye feels tired or dry more quickly as it’s still healing, particularly if you’re doing visually
intensive tasks like staring at the computer or reading. During your post-operative period, if anything
feels not right with your eyes or vision, contact your ophthalmologist immediately.

 

 

Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second
opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

types of cataract melbourne

Different Types of Cataract – Understand How They Can Affect Your Vision

Cataracts are a normal part of ageing and are often cited as the leading cause of reversible vision loss in the developed world. Fortunately, cataract surgery is an easily accessible service in our medical system with many highly skilled eye surgeons in both private and public practice. 

A cataract is an opacity or clouding of the lens inside the eye, which starts as transparent at birth. As we get older, the lens gradually loses its clarity and becomes hazy. Out of all the types of cataract, age-related cataracts are by far the most common, making cataract surgery one of the most commonly performed procedures in Australia with our ageing population. 

Depending on which of the various types of cataract develop in the eye, you will begin experiencing mild vision problems, such as blurry or filmy vision, increased glare sensitivity, or an alteration to your colour perception. In Western civilisation, very rarely does anyone reach complete vision loss from a cataract due to the accessibility of cataract surgery in our society. 

 

Types of Cataract

Eyecare professionals will typically categorise the types of cataract based on their location. Although most cataracts more or less share the same symptoms, depending on the location and nature of the cataract, specific vision problems may be more pronounced with one type of cataract compared to another. 

Nuclear sclerosis occurs in the centre of the eye’s lens, called the nucleus. To an optometrist or eye specialist examining your eye, this appears as a brownish-yellowing of the centre of the lens. Nuclear sclerosis can cause vision problems such as mild colour vision loss, as the discolouration of the lens filters certain wavelengths of colour trying to reach the retina at the back of the eye. This type of cataract can also cause what’s known as a myopic shift, where the prescription of the eye becomes more short-sighted. 

An anterior cortical cataract grows in the outer layers of the lens, in the fibres surrounding the lens nucleus. These look like bicycle spokes of white or grey opacities. An anterior cortical cataract is commonly associated with glare sensitivity, as the incoming light is scattered by these opacities. Some people with a cortical cataract will experience the opposite of those with a nuclear sclerotic cataract and find their prescription becomes more long-sighted, known as a hyperopic shift. 

The third type of cataract is called a posterior subcapsular cataract. These look like white plaques in the centre of the back surface of the lens. Because of this location, posterior subcapsular cataracts are associated with the most vision loss out of all senile cataracts, as well as significant glare sensitivity.  

categorising types of cataract melbourneFortunately, most age-related cataracts are easily managed with cataract surgery. In most cases, it is safe to delay cataract surgery until the vision problems from the cataract progress to a point where it impacts your daily activities, such as if you no longer feel comfortable driving. Your optometrist or ophthalmologist will discuss with you if you have an eye condition that may mean it is better to have cataract surgery sooner than this point. 

Another way of categorising the types of cataract is from their underlying cause. 

  • Age-related cataracts. These are also known as senile cataracts, and as mentioned earlier, make up the vast majority of cataract cases.
  • Congenital cataracts. These cataracts are present at birth. Although there is sometimes no identifiable underlying cause, a baby may be born with a congenital cataract if the mother had an illness during pregnancy, such as measles or rubella. Certain medications taken during pregnancy have also been associated with congenital cataracts, such as tetracycline antibiotics. Congenital cataracts have the potential to cause permanent vision loss in babies if not treated promptly, as the visual system is still developing, however, the urgency of cataract surgery will depend on whether the cataract is considered visually significant or not.
  • Traumatic cataract. This can happen after an injury to the eye that can either be blunt, like a cricket ball to the eye or penetrating, like a shard of glass. The force of the trauma disrupts the fibres of the lens, causing them to lose their transparency. Electric shocks from lightning strikes or touching a live current can also induce a cataract, in addition to other eye problems. Though most traumatic cataracts will respond well to cataract surgery, the final visual outcome depends on whether other areas of the eye have also sustained any damage. 
  • Diabetic cataract. Amongst other eye complications, such as diabetic retinopathy, diabetes is also responsible for causing cataracts, resulting in the need for cataract surgery at an earlier average age compared to those without diabetes. Studies have found diabetes is associated with an increased risk of nuclear, cortical, and posterior subcapsular cataracts. 

There are various other terms to describe the different types of cataract, such as their appearance – cerulean cataracts appear as blue flecks in the lens while the white opacities of a snowflake cataract, as the name suggests, resemble a snowflake. There is even what’s known as a Christmas tree cataract, which appears as colourful, reflective, needle-shaped opacities in the lens. 

The only definitive treatment for cataracts is surgical extraction, though this may not be useful or necessary in all cases. 

 

 

Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

cataract symptoms melbourne

Cataract Symptoms – Understand What Signs To Look Out For

Cataracts are a normal part of ageing. Many people are worried that being told they have an early cataract means impending vision loss and blindness, but modern cataract surgery is a highly successful procedure in our developed society. 

Mild cataracts often do not cause any noticeable cataract symptoms. In fact, some people with even moderate cataracts often go about quite happily in their daily activities, unaware that their slight vision changes are attributable to cataract symptoms

A cataract is an opacity in the crystalline lens of the eye, which is usually clear and transparent to allow the transmission of light to the back of the eye for vision. When there is a cataract present, incoming light is blocked or scattered, resulting in the characteristic symptoms of a cataract. 

 

Cataract Symptoms to Look Out For 

The symptoms of a cataract will vary depending on the type of cataract, its location, and how advanced it is. In most cases, cataract surgery is only indicated once these cataract symptoms reach a point where they are significantly impeding an individual’s ability to confidently perform their usual tasks, such as driving or reading. Very rarely does a person experience complete vision loss from a cataract – in Australia, the design of our medical system allows for a patient to access cataract surgery usually long before this happens. 

It can be difficult to identify the symptoms of a cataract as many people will simply dismiss their vision changes as part of normal ageing. In a way, this is accurate as cataracts themselves are a normal part of ageing. The symptoms of a cataract are also not unique to cataracts and can potentially be a symptom of a more serious eye disease that could result in real vision loss. Therefore, it is important to always get checked by an optometrist or ophthalmologist if you ever feel there’s something not right with your eyes or vision. 

typical cataract symptoms melbourneThe following are typical symptoms of a cataract.

  • Hazy vision. You may also describe your vision as filmy, blurry, or cloudy. Many people will feel their vision is like looking through a dirty window and in fact, some will constantly try to clean their glasses, believing that smudged lenses are to blame! 
  • Glare sensitivity. The opacity in the lens causes incoming light rays to be scattered, which is what the eye perceives as glare. This glare sensitivity, also known as photophobia, can be  mild discomfort or it can be severe enough to cause some to avoid driving at night. You may notice this photophobia in situations such as when faced with oncoming car headlights or when reading LED or backlit signs.
  • Reduced contrast sensitivity. This may be apparent in situations such as trying to read coloured text against a coloured background or fine print in dim lighting. You may also find you feel less comfortable driving in low contrast conditions, such as in the rain or at dusk. 
  • Needing to update your glasses or contact lens prescription more frequently than usual. The formation of a cataract can often result in an alteration to the refractive index of the crystalline lens in the eye, meaning that light is bent through the lens to a different degree compared to pre-cataract. A certain type of age-related cataract known as nuclear sclerosis is known to cause a “myopic shift”, resulting in a prescription becoming more short-sighted. Conversely, another type of cataract known as an anterior cortical cataract can sometimes cause a prescription to shift towards more long-sightedness. 

A cataract will never cause pain or the eye to appear red. The symptoms of a cataract will develop very slowly over time, though some types of cataract may grow relatively faster than others (such as those induced by steroid medications or trauma). It is not possible to one day wake up with sudden vision loss from a cataract – any such event should be treated as an emergency. 

 

When Is It Time for Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures in Australia. Many patients, once told they have a cataract, are concerned about the timing of cataract surgery – does it need to be done immediately or can they hold off for a bit longer? 

For the vast majority of people, cataract surgery is only necessary once your vision is really not adequate for what you need to be able to see. Though that may sound a bit strange, cataracts are not a malignant growth and once they are removed, your vision is more or less restored to the clarity you once enjoyed before the cataract began developing. The point when someone feels their vision is ready for surgery can differ from individual to individual – for example, someone who enjoys cross-stitching or birdwatching will be bothered by their cataract much sooner than someone whose hobby or vocation is cooking or running. 

In some cases, your ophthalmologist or optometrist may strongly recommend you proceed with cataract surgery sooner rather than later. This may be because the presence of the cataract is putting you at risk of glaucoma, if the cataract is becoming “hypermature”, which can make delayed cataract surgery risky, or if your vision no longer meets Australian driving standards, even if you feel like you can still drive safely. 

 

 

Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.