A very important branch of ophthalmology, cataract surgery is a simple operation during which trained cataract surgeons correct 'cloudy' vision that is symptomatic of the gradual thickening of the lens of the eye.
In adults over the age of 55, cataracts are the primary cause of vision loss. Luckily cataracts can be treated easily and with technological advances in cataract surgery being made every day, most patients who elect to have the procedure done can expect full restoration of their vision.
There exists a common misconception that a cataract is a 'film' over the eye. This, however, is not true. The cloudy vision associated with this affliction is the result of a thickening of the lens of the eye which hinders the travelling of light to the retina and, ultimately, the transmission of visual information to the brain.
The cataract surgery procedure preferred by surgeons in South Africa is a minimally invasive, relatively uncomplicated outpatient procedure during which the eye's natural lens is removed using a high-frequency ultrasound technique and replaced with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL). The silicone lens is fitted by means of what is described as micro-surgery, which means no sutures are required and the procedure is performed under a topical anaesthetic in the form of eye drops. If a patient has cataracts in both eyes, surgery is done on one eye at a time with one week interval in between (the eye with the most advanced cataract is usually done first). This allows the individual to use the other eye while the treated one heals.
A consultation with the ophthalmic surgeon is scheduled for the day before surgery. The cataract surgery procedure itself is usually painless, and generally takes less than 15 minutes. After surgery, a patch and eye shield is placed over the operated eye. Most patients are able to leave the clinic within an hour, and most report clear vision within two days. For the first few days after cataract surgery, a patient's eyes may be red and sensitive. Drops are prescribed to facilitate healing. If the patient wishes to protect their eyes even further during the initial healing period they may consider wearing protective eyewear during the day and an eye shield during the night.
Air travel is not a problem after the surgery, although it is recommended you wait at least three days before returning home. If your cataract surgery was completed without any complications you can expect you resume normal activities (including reading, heavy lifting and other actions that put pressure on the eyes) within about a week. Prior to this, it is recommended to keep the eye covered, dry and rested. Within one month your eye will most likely be fully recovered, although your brain will continue to adjust to the IOL in order to provide optimal vision.
Various hospitals in South Africa are equipped to facilitate cataract surgery. Inquire today; beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all.