What is cataract?
Cataract is any alteration in the transparency of the crystalline lens. The crystalline lens, together with the cornea, has the function of carrying light rays to the retina. The opacification of the crystalline lens causes a loss of vision, which is reversible thanks to the progress of modern techniques of ocular microsurgery.
What are the most frequent causes?
Undoubtedly the most common type of cataract is senile cataract or age-related cataract (it can be said that over 65 years of age it occurs in more than 70% of the population).
Several factors are known that may influence its occurrence, but its exact cause is still unknown. Some factors of acquired cataracts are:
- Familial character: Cataracts usually appear at younger ages.
- Solar radiation
- Prolonged use of some medications
- Ocular trauma
Other less frequent types are congenital cataracts, present from birth.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
The patient with cataracts reports a slow and progressive loss of vision. The vision is perceived as:
- Unfocused or as if looking through a veil.
- Some improvement in near vision: This is because the cataract causes a change in the refractive index of the crystalline lens, which often results in myopia.
- Glare due to lens opacities that scatter incident light.
In addition, difficulty in driving at night is frequent in the early stages of cataract. Alteration in color perception may also be frequent.
In some types of cataract, vision may improve in low light environments because the pupil is dilated.
What is the treatment of cataract?
Cataract treatment is always surgical. In the past, people used to wait for the cataract to “mature” before performing surgery, but it has been shown that it is not necessary to wait until the cataract is very advanced or mature. In fact, it is a mistake to wait too long, as it deprives the patient of an early visual recovery. Moreover, technically, the surgical intervention is more difficult and, consequently, the risk of complications is higher.
Cataract surgery is currently performed with great safety and restoration of visual function is achieved in more than 90% of patients. Likewise, before the intervention is performed, the patient’s visual conditions and needs for daily life should be assessed together with the patient.
Which surgical technique is the most convenient?
The safest, most effective and modern technique is phacoemulsification with intraocular lens implantation.
This is the most commonly used technique and consists of fragmentation and aspiration of the crystalline lens by means of a probe that emits ultrasound. This allows the procedure to be performed through an incision of less than 3 mm, and in most cases it is not necessary to use sutures. The application of special foldable intraocular lenses makes it unnecessary to enlarge the incision, which gives more stability to the eye and considerably reduces the incidence of postoperative astigmatism.
Visual recovery is much faster with this technique than with other surgical techniques, allowing the patient to return to daily life in a few days.
What is the function of the intraocular lens?
The intraocular lens is inserted in place of the crystalline lens to replace its refractive function. At the same time, with an adequate calculation, it serves to correct myopia, hyperopia and/or astigmatism that may exist previously. Also with the implant of multifocal or trifocal lenses we can correct the difficulty in near vision. In most cases, this allows patients to enjoy good vision at any distance without the need to wear glasses permanently.
What type of anesthesia is required?
In the vast majority of cases, the procedure is performed under topical anesthesia, in which only an anesthetic eye drop is used. Sometimes local anesthesia is used, usually peribulbar anesthesia, a technique in which the anesthetic is distributed around the eyeball.
Is hospitalization necessary for the procedure?
At Clínica Eurolàser cataract surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. This way the patient only spends a few hours in the clinic. The following day he/she will be checked at the office.