Can Laser Eye Surgery Cure Cataracts?
It’s thought that the first cataract surgery was performed in ancient Egypt, some 2000 years ago.
Thankfully, though, a lot has changed since then.
In 2018, cataract surgery is not an experimental procedure performed by hand using long, primitive instruments. In fact, it is one of the most common and successful vision correction treatments around, with over 20 million surgeries being done each year.
What is a cataract?
Like in a camera, the lens of the eye focuses light rays and helps us create a clear and sharp image of the world.
In a healthy eye, the lens is transparent and allows light to pass through to be focused at a precise point on the retina — the light-sensitive tissue or “film” at the back of the eye.
It is here that light is converted into electrochemical impulses and sent along the optic nerve to the brain, where the images are combined, consolidated, and, thankfully, flipped the right side up.
The lens of the eye is made of mostly water and protein, arranged in a precise way that keeps the lens strong but clear. As we age — and our body responds to conditions like our health and the environment — this balance is disrupted, causing proteins to break down and coalesce to form “clouds” in the lens.
We refer to a clouded lens as a cataract. The chance of cataracts increases as we get older and most commonly occur in people in their mid to late sixties and early seventies. However, they can appear earlier. Congenital cataracts can form at birth, secondary cataracts can be caused by certain health conditions, and traumatic cataracts can form as a result of injury.
Often appearing in one or both eyes, a common characteristic of cataracts is their yellowish/brownish appearance and the subsequent tint they add to the colour of your vision. They may also cause vision to become dull and blurry, something that can gradually worsen over time as they “grow” and block more light from entering the eye.
Other signs of cataracts include glare and halo (especially at night), trouble identifying colours, changes in your glasses prescription, and difficulty reading in low light.
Can you cure cataracts?
Cataract surgery, which is the process of removing the natural (cloudy) lens and replacing with a clear artificial lens, is the only way to treat cataracts.
The procedure is simpler than it first sounds. The surgeon makes a very small incision at the edge of the cornea, removes the cloudy lens, and places a new artificial lens in the exact same position.
Although it’s the only treatment method, cataract surgery is not the same in every clinic. The success of the surgery depends largely on several factors: namely, the expertise of the surgeon and the technology at their disposal.
A cataract surgeon can be anything from a newly qualified doctor to a highly‑trained cataract specialist with 20 years of experience. When choosing a cataract surgeon, look for formal training and qualifications in cataract and refractive surgery such as the Royal College of Ophthalmologists FRCOphth and CertLRS, as well as PGDip CRS. In addition, it is important they hold active memberships of professional organisations such as the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons and the UK Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons.
In terms of technology, there’s no industry-wide regulation that dictates what systems and specifications clinics must follow. This makes it paramount to research and find clinics that pursue the highest standards and thus always update to the latest tech. Systems like the Alcon Centurion and Verion are leading-edge technologies that have been specially designed to provide greater accuracy, safety, and efficiency during cataract surgery.
Living with cataracts can be difficult, but getting them treated doesn’t have to be. Contact one of our friendly clinic coordinators today to find out if you’re a candidate for cataract surgery.