Considering cataracts are becoming increasingly prevalent in our population, it is fortunate that cataracts are one of the few eye conditions that can be fully treated and any vision loss restored. In this case, cataract surgery is the go-to, definitive treatment. Cataract surgery is considered a very safe, highly effective procedure in our society. However, as with any invasive medical procedure, cataract surgery carries benefits but also risks.
How do you decide whether the cataract surgery benefits outweigh the risks? Part of it will be discussing your concerns and potential risk factors with your optometrist, eye surgeon, or GP. These healthcare professionals will be able to guide you by taking into account the state of your cataract and vision as well as any pre-existing systemic or eye conditions that may predispose you to greater risk during cataract surgery.
To help you make a more informed decision, here are some cataract surgery benefits and risks you should be aware of.
Cataract Surgery Benefits
The most significant and obvious benefit of cataract surgery is, of course, restoring the clarity of your vision. This is typically the reason the vast majority of people will seek cataract surgery in the first place – because they’re no longer satisfied with the clarity of their vision.
Although cataracts are not typically associated with complete blindness in our developed society, the opacity of a cataract can significantly reduce the quality of your sight. The effects of a cataract can also often extend beyond simple blurriness. Having the opacity and haze removed from your eye’s lens through cataract surgery can also:
- Make colours appear more vibrant and your colour discrimination more accurate.
- Improve your contrast sensitivity.
- Reduce your glare sensitivity.
Depending on the type and location of your cataract, and how it had been impacting your vision, you may experience one or all of the benefits listed above. This translates to improved comfort and function in scenarios such as reading the fine print in dim lighting or driving in low contrast environments, including dusk and dawn or heavy rain. The significance of these benefits may vary from individual to individual. For example, an artist or painter will place more value on the restoration of his or her colour discrimination, while an overnight truck or taxi driver will appreciate the improved contrast vision and reduced glare sensitivity.
Another big plus of cataract surgery is that it can help to stabilise your prescription. Because the shifting refractive index of the crystalline lens in the eye is largely responsible for changes to your spectacle or contact lens prescription, replacing this lens with an artificial implant can remove this driver behind prescription changes. However, it is important to note that other eye conditions, such as keratoconus, may still play a part in shifting your prescription post-cataract surgery.
In addition to stabilising your prescription, cataract surgery may potentially remove your dependency on a prescription altogether. Depending on what type of artificial lens implant you choose for your procedure, the outcome may be excellent long-distance and/or short distance vision without the needed-for glasses or contact lenses. There are different types of implants, known as intraocular lenses, available to suit various lifestyles and activities. The most premium intraocular lenses may provide you with clear unaided vision for both long-distance and reading in most situations. However, even the more basic lens implants can still correct one viewing distance, such as far sight, while you continue to wear glasses for reading or computer work.
Cataract Surgery Risks
In most cases, cataract surgery is an uncomplicated, straightforward procedure, taking only 15-20 minutes per eye. However, there is still a risk of complications or adverse side effects to be aware of.
The most common side effects are minor and temporary. These may include effects such as dry eye or an increase in glare sensitivity as the eye adjusts to the removal of the cataract and increased influx of light. Supportive therapies such as lubricating eye drops or sunglasses can be used to make you feel more comfortable as the eye settles. Another common observation after cataract surgery is the presence of floaters. These little drifting specks in your vision are a result of natural debris floating about the gel inside your eyeball.
Severe and sight-threatening complications during or after cataract surgery are uncommon but not unknown. These include:
- A serious internal eye infection known as endophthalmitis.
- A retinal detachment.
- Swelling and fluid leakage around the macula (the central area of your vision).
- Increase to the internal pressure of the eye and subsequent glaucoma.
- Prolonged pain and inflammation of the eye.
- Swelling of the cornea.
- Haemorrhaging inside the eye.
Most of these complications may be effectively treated or managed but there is a small potential for permanent vision loss.
Although there is always room for the unexpected to occur during any medical procedure, your eye surgeon will take all precautions to reduce your risk of an adverse effect. This includes being aware of any other eye conditions, such as an existing retinal tear, that may increase your likelihood of experiencing a complication.
In the vast majority of cases, cataract surgery benefits will outweigh the risks. However, it is important to speak to your eye care professional for personalised advice.
Call us now on (03) 9070 5753 for a consultation.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.