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Dr Duncan

Cataracts

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Arthur was looking pretty smug sitting on the seat of his walking frame and soaking up the sunshine. “What’s put the smile on your dial mate” I asked him. “Two wonderful things have happened to me recently, and one of them was that I had my cataracts operated on last week and I can read the newspaper without glasses” he replied. 

Cataracts family

Source http://www.theeyepractice.com.au/

Getting the gift of normal vision back at any age is fantastic.  Perhaps more so when you are advancing in years, when loss of vision threatens not only your enjoyment of life, but your independence too! And cataracts are very common in the aging population.

So what are cataracts? 
Most of us would probably know that we have a lens in our eyes that helps us focus our sight so that we can literally see the hand in front of our face, and also the clouds over the distant hills - this is called visual accommodation. When you get a cataract, the lens that allows that accommodation to occur becomes thickened and opaque, which is like putting frosted glass in front of your eyes, or trying to see through a thick mist.

Who is at risk of getting a cataract? 
As I mentioned above, aging is the most common cause of cataracts although there are others: 
• Cataracts can be hereditary and can occasionally be seen in infants and young children. 
• Trauma to the eye can lead to the development of a cataract. 
• Long-term treatment with steroid medications can cause them.
• Diabetes or previous eye surgery have also been implicated.

But age is by far the most common cause, and cataracts are one of the major reasons that older people stop driving at night.  Often they can’t cope with the glare of lights caused by the fogging of their lenses. It’s because of these types of situation, where a person’s lifestyle is threatened by deteriorating vision, that most patients with cataracts usually seek medical attention. 
 
Cataracts cat eye

Source http://heritageeyecenter.com

There are several different types of cataracts, but whatever the type, your specialist will need to make a thorough investigation of your eyes. This is usually done with a “slit lamp” examination and allows the doctor to examine the front of the eye in great detail. Your specialist will also study the back of your eye too to make sure that there are no other problems lurking behind that foggy lens, and this will require the use of eye-drops to dilate the pupil to allow all of the back of the eye to be visualized closely. If this is the case, you will need someone to drive you home as although the effects of the drops wears off fairly rapidly, they can last long enough to make going outside in the bright sunlight a very uncomfortable experience.

If a cataract is found, whatever the type, the question is “what should be done about it?” Many are in the early stages and need no treatment at all: in fact the driving factor for most operations is that the patients ask the surgeon to do something about it because it’s making life difficult living with it! Should surgery be needed, the great news is that it is quick, simple, virtually painless, and you’ll almost certainly be going home on the same day of the operations.



Source http://www.eyesitemd.com

Nearly all cataract surgery is done on a “day surgery” basis and is only performed on one eye at a time under local anaesthetic. A tiny incision is made in the eye itself, the affected lens is removed using microscopic instruments, and then an artificial one is slipped into the spot recent occupied by the previous, diseased lens.

After the procedure - because it really is too simple to call an operation - a bandage will be placed over that eye for a short period of time, and you’ll go home with some eye drops to use to prevent infections occurring.

Inserting an intra ocular lens is almost like magic, and has a magical effect on nearly everyone who has the procedure done. Like my friend Arthur, reading is restored with ease, and colours become more intense, as opposed to the “yellowing” effect that a cataract will often have on your vision. Although we perform lens replacements on a daily basis, we still have no concrete preventative measures to deal with it. But most would agree that: 1. Smoking is bad
2. Excess alcohol is bad
3. Obesity can increase the risks.
4. Chronic exposure to bright sunlight is not good
5. Caution should be taken with anyone taking steroid medications over a long period of time.

What you should do is have regular eye checks, eat a balanced yet varied diet, and seek early attention for anything that affects your vision.

As I was leaving Arthur I asked him what the second wonderful thing was that had happened to him. “I was 86 yesterday and two lovely ladies gave me a kiss” he said with a sparkle in his clear eyes. I think Arthur’s going to have a very happy year this year! 

Article written by Dr. Duncan Jefferson. More articles here. For more information on health care and private health cover, visit HBF Insurance at www.hbf.com.au.

The content of these articles is not tailored for any particular individual's circumstances. The author does not take into account your physical condition, medical history or any medication you may be taking. Any advice or information provided by the author cannot replace the advice of your health care professional. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent those of HBF unless clearly indicated.

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