Cataract surgery 

Having a cataract removed is one of the most common operations in the UK. Consultant ophthalmologist Mark Wilkins explains what's involved.

Find out about cataract surgery

Transcript of Cataract surgery

I'm Mark Wilkins.

I'm a consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, London.

A cataract is when the natural lens in your eye becomes cloudy,

and when that causes you a problem

and gets in the way of you living your life,

and the classic things are problems with recognising faces, bus numbers,

difficulty driving, difficulty doing your job, all those sorts of things.

If you're having a problem, it's worth considering having the surgery.

In the past when we wanted remove the cataract,

it came out as a whole lens.

Nowadays, with the newer machines, with a very small wound,

it's almost like keyhole surgery. The recovery is much, much quicker

and people can return to normal much, much quicker than in the past.

An overwhelming majority of patients are surprised

at how straightforward it is.

They imagine it's going to be very painful,

and that's not the normal experience at all.

The overwhelming impression is very positive.

Lots of studies show that about 95 per cent of people

notice an improvement in their vision after surgery.

It's a very successful operation.

The operation is done with the eye in its natural place.

In no way do we take the eye out of the socket, put it on your cheek.

We don't do that.

We can get to where we want to be with the eye in its natural position.

That's very important to say.

Some units like to give a local anaesthetic injection around the eye

to completely numb the eye.

Some units find that they get just as successful results

by numbing the surface of the eye with anaesthetic drops.

Either of those two ways of numbing the eye are very common in the UK.

The surgeon makes a very small cut into the eye

at the junction of the coloured and white part of the eye.

It's normally a self-sealing cut. No stitches are required.

Once inside the eye, he or she will remove the cloudy cataract,

this cloudy lens, and once that's been washed away,

a new implant or new lens is placed inside the eye

to do the focusing work of the lens that's been taken out.

Most units would leave the eye covered for the first day

and normally a patient would take the pad

or pad and shield off the next morning.

From that point onwards, they normally have improved vision.

The pupil may still be a little big and cause some blurring,

but the vision is usually better and keeps on improving thereafter,

and they can go about most of their normal daily activities.

It's very important that people can get back to a normal life.

You find people who unnecessarily restrict their normal activities.

We strongly encourage people to get back to normal activities

as soon as possible.

The really nice thing about when you put an implant in

is that you can change somebody's spectacle prescription,

so that people who all their life

have been very short-sighted or long-sighted can have that corrected.

Many people find that their distance vision

is much, much better after the surgery

simply because we've got rid of their spectacle prescription.

Sometimes people think that they should have it done sooner than later

because for some reason, it will be trickier later on in life.

That's not normally the case.

If you have a mild cataract and don't want surgery, it's safe to leave it,

particularly if you find you're not bothered by the cataract.

It would be an uncommon situation to say to a patient,

"You should have had it done earlier because now it's too complicated."

Equally, some patients feel that they shouldn't have the surgery

because of their age. Again, I can't think of a situation

where somebody's age is relevant to the decision.

I think, whatever age you are, if you're having trouble with a cataract

and you understand the risks and benefits,

you should consider the surgery.

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