How Long Can Cataract Surgery Be Postponed?
The development of cataracts is a completely natural part of the eye’s ageing process – but that is usually of little consolation to those living with these cloudy obstructions. In many cases, patients with cataracts are eager to get rid of them for good; however, for some, postponing surgery may seem like a more appealing option. Whether this is down to nerves about the procedure, worries about the recovery period, or any other reason, it’s good to know how long Cataract Surgery can be delayed.
What are Cataracts?
When we think of cataracts, most of us probably picture clouded lenses in the eye, but the fact is, it can actually take years for the lens to become noticeably affected. Cataracts form gradually as the proteins in the lens begin to break down and clump together. This process is completely natural and happens to everyone as we get older. However, the rate of cataract development – and hence their noticeability – can vary significantly from person to person.
But, while cataracts can take years to affect your vision, once they do, they can cause significant impairment. As the cataract matures, they are commonly associated with blurred vision, changes to colour perception, and glare. Over time, this can reduce your ability to carry out normal everyday tasks, such as reading, writing and driving. Thankfully, Cataract Surgery offers a simple solution.
Cataract Surgery – How Does it Work?
Cataract Surgery as we know it today was first introduced almost 300 years ago by French ophthalmologist Jacques Daviel. Of course, this (now routine) treatment has come a long way since then and is now considered one of the safest surgical procedures in the world. So, how does it work?
The procedure involves removing the clouded, cataract-affected lens and replacing it with an artificial one – known as an intraocular lens or IOL. This is achieved by creating a small incision in the surface of the eye, through which the cataract can be extracted and the IOL can be implanted. This might sound a little gory but rest assured – the use of local anaesthetic and short surgery times help to keep discomfort to a minimum.
For the vast majority of patients, Cataract Surgery is a minor procedure that won’t involve an overnight stay at the hospital. In fact, most people are able to head home within a couple of hours! Furthermore, aside from a little post-surgery blurriness, you will likely notice an immediate improvement in your vision.
But how do you know when it’s time to get Cataract Surgery? And should you delay your treatment?
Postponing Cataract Surgery
The NHS carries out over 450,000 cataract procedures every single year in England alone. However, in recent years, waiting times for Cataract Surgery have been on the rise, with new data revealing that patients who received cataract surgery in 2021 had waited an average of nine months or more. In contrast, patients who have Cataract Surgery at a private clinic are treated within a matter of weeks.
Evidence suggests that postponing Cataract Surgery makes the procedure more difficult to perform. Furthermore, as cataracts mature, they not only continue to cause increased impairment to your vision but studies have shown that delaying your Cataract Surgery for six months can also lead to increased risk of falls and a decreased quality of life.
The right time to undergo the procedure can only be determined by your eye doctor and will vary from patient to patient. Nonetheless, it is generally accepted that postponing your surgery for too long can have negative implications for your lifestyle and potentially the success of the procedure.