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What is a cataract?

How do I know if I have one?

The lens of the eye is normally transparent. If a cloudy area develops in the lens, it is called a cataract. As the lens becomes increasingly opaque, light rays entering the eye are prevented from focusing on the light sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye, known as the retina. Symptoms include blurred vision, sensitivity to light and glare, distortion, and dimming of colours and eventually loss of vision.

What causes cataracts?

By far the most common cause of cataract is age.  Cataracts can also be caused by injury, drugs, systemic or ocular disease.

How are cataracts diagnosed?

Your eye doctor will perform a thorough examination of your eyes. There is no single objective test to determine a need for cataract surgery. The final decision for cataract surgery is made by the patient and depends on how much the decreased vision from the cataract is bothersome.

Are cataracts only found in older people?

By the age of 60, about half of all adults will have some level of cataract formation, although it is often unnoticeable. A cataract is painless and usually develops gradually over several months or years. By the age of 70 however, nearly everyone has some degree of cataract formation.

How can my cataract(s) be treated?

At first, a change in the prescription for your spectacles may be all that is needed. This may improve your vision temporarily. There are no medications or eye drops that will cause cataracts to disappear. When you are unable to do the things you like doing, or you are unable to pass your drivers license exam, cataract surgery should be considered. Cataracts can only be removed with surgery. 

Is the procedure painful?

With modern equipment and improved procedures, the surgery is short and minimally invasive. The surgery is generally performed under topical or local anaesthesia and light sedation may be administered so you will not feel anything. The incision is less than 2.5mm (1/10”) and only the inner lens is gently removed, leaving the lens capsule intact. It is generally a no-stitch procedure and you will be able to go home shortly after the surgery.

How successful is the surgery?

Cataract surgery generally has an overall success rate of over 95 percent. The Peninsula Eye Centre (part of the Moreton Eye Group) benchmarks its cataract outcomes against leading international studies, making us one of the few, if not the only eye centre in Australia that does so.

Will I still have to wear glasses after the cataracts are removed?

Depending on the type of lens you have inserted, you may still require reading glasses. Most patients have IOLs (intraocular lenses) implanted during surgery which are designed to improve long vision (monofocal). Multifocal lens allow for greater range correction and may not require the patient to use any glasses afterwards, however, this comes with drawbacks – usually a reduction in contrast sensitivity and halos, especially around bright lights which can make driving at night difficult.  We can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of multifocal lenses or mono-vision (where one eye is set for near vision and the other for distance vision) and help you decide what is the most sensible choice for you at your consultation. 

Will the cataracts ever return?

Once the natural lens has been removed from your eye, cataracts can never come back. However, some patients experience further cloudy or hazy vision after their surgery. This is due to the lens capsule behind the intraocular lens becoming cloudy. Your ophthalmologist can correct this problem with the use of a Y.A.G. laser which will be used to create an opening in the capsule. The procedure is painless and safe and will provide nearly immediate results.

Will pre-existing conditions pose a problem or risk?

They can cause problems, such as interfering with the surgery itself, anaesthesia or after-care. Be sure to disclose all health problems, symptoms and medical risks you have or had in the past. This information is always kept confidential. Make sure to tell the doctor about: allergies; bad reactions to antibiotics or anesthetics or any other type of drug or medicine; heavy bleeding if you've had surgery or been injured before; had any blood disorder, such as haemophilia and any previous problems with or surgery to your eyes. Be sure to let us know all drugs, medicines and supplements you take.

How much will the surgery cost?

You will be advised by our staff about costs depending on your treatment. They will discuss what will be covered by public or private health insurance and indicate out-of-pocket expenses. You will be provided with an estimate on your initial consultation. We have contacts with Veterans Affairs, are a preferred MBF provider and have affiliations with all other health funds. 

What are possible side-effects or complications?

As with any type of surgery, there are possible risks. Our team make every attempt to minimise complications, but they can and do occur and may have permanent effects. You surgeon will outline the specifics to you, not in an effort to alarm you, but just so you are fully informed on whether this type of surgery is right for you. Serious complications, however, are rare (about 1 in 400) and many can be resolved with some additional treatment.