The lens of an eye is normally clear. A cataract is clouding of the eye’s lens. Poor vision results because the cloudiness interferes with light entering the eye. In a normal eye, light passes through the transparent lens to the retina. Once it reaches the retina, light is changed into nerve signals that are sent to the brain. The lens must be clear for the retina to receive a sharp image. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred.
What causes cataracts?
Cataracts are a naturally occurring process of aging. It is a clouding of the natural lens inside the eye. Most people will develop some degree of cataract by the time they reach their 60s or 70s. The rate of progression is often slow and can vary between both eyes. While aging is the most common cause of cataracts, conditions such as diabetes, and medications including steroids, trauma, inflammation as well as other factors can cause cataracts.
While uncommon, cataracts can develop in younger people and rarely, even in utero. This may be due to inherited conditions, complications during pregnancy or from an unknown cause.
The only cure for cataracts is surgery. The cloudy lens is removed and is replaced with a clear artificial lens, known as an intra ocular lens or ‘IOL’. There are many different types of IOLs, including standard, multifocal or toric IOLs to correct astigmatism.
The surgery takes around 30 minutes and is a day procedure done under local anaesthetic.
What are the symptoms of a cataract?
Some cataract symptoms are: Cloudy or blurry vision, faded colours, difficulty with glare, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights. Poor night vision could also be a symptom of cataracts. Early cataracts may only cause mild symptoms which do not affect quality of life. Advanced cataracts can cause profound visual loss and legal blindness unless treated.
How is a cataract treated?
When a cataract interferes with your everyday activities, such as driving, reading, or watching TV then surgery might be necessary. The only way to treat a cataract is through surgery. Surgery involves removing the natural cloudy lens and replacing it with a clear artificial lens (intra ocular lens or IOL). This lens stays in the eye permanently.
What are the risks of cataract surgery?
Cataract removal is one of the most common operations performed in Australia. It also is one of the safest and most effective types of surgery. In about 90 percent of cases, people who have cataract surgery have better vision afterward. Cataract surgery has improved dramatically over recent years into one of the safest and most effective operations. As with any surgery there are risks involved, some of these might be:
• Bleeding inside the eye
• Increased pressure inside the eye (glaucoma)
• Swelling of the retina or cornea
• Retinal detachment
• Loss of vision (partially or completely)
Cataract surgery costs
The cost of cataract surgery is dependent on whether you have private health insurance, how much cover you have and also whether you have an excess to pay before you use it. The cost of surgery is also dependent on the type of artificial lens used.
Cataract surgery is covered partly by Medicare and your private health insurance.
Even if you do not have health insurance it is still possible to have private cataract surgery.
As there are many varied factors involved in quoting for surgery it is best to come in for an assessment for a more accurate quote.
Western Eye Specialists has direct access to Western Health for public surgery. You will need to attend an initial appointment in our consulting rooms in order to be placed on the waiting list.
If it is decided that you require surgery the consultant will refer you to be listed for review in our pre-operative clinic.
Due to high demand the waiting time for this appointment is up to 12–18 months.
At your pre-operative assessment you will receive a date for surgery within 4–8 weeks. This time frame is important as we need to ensure that your eyes have not changed significantly between being reviewed and having surgery.