What is a cataract?
A cataract is a gradual clouding of the crystalline lens inside the eye. The lens sits behind the iris, the coloured part of the eye. This clouding tends to decrease vision over time and will continue doing so until a person cannot see out of the affected eye at all.
What causes cataracts?
Cataracts usually occur as a normal process of ageing. Most people will get cataracts at some stage in their life. Although it is much more common in older people, younger people can get cataracts. This usually occurs for a secondary reason such as an eye injury, taking specific long term medications such as steroids, long term exposure to the sun, excessive smoking, some health conditions such as diabetes and numerous other factors. In many cases both eyes will show signs of cataract.
What are the symptoms?
Most people do not notice any changes to their vision until the cataracts have progressed to a moderate level. This is due to the fact that cataracts usually develop over months to years. Once vision starts to become affected, patients typically notice difficulty with detailed tasks, sensitivity to light, a “film” or “fog” across their vision, “shadowing” of objects, difficulty with night vision, and sometimes even distortion or double vision. Cataracts do not cause pain in or around the eye, or headaches.
How are cataracts fixed?
The only way to remove a cataract is with surgery. Surgery is carried out when a patient’s vision has started to become affected by the cataract(s). Surgery involves removing the cloudy cataractous lens, and replacing it with an artificial intraocular lens. If both eyes are affected, they are usually operated on one day apart. Surgery is never performed on both eyes on the same day. After cataract surgery is performed, some patients find that they do not need to wear glasses, or may only need them for near duties, e.g. reading and/or computer work.
What happens before surgery?
Prior to the surgery, measurements need to be taken of the eyes to determine what intraocular lenses are required to replace the patient’s own cloudy lens. As everyone’s eyes are different, the artificial lenses required to replace the cloudy lens will be different as well. Just as no one can wear another person’s glasses and see clearly with them, the intraocular lens needed for one person may not give an optimal visual outcome for another person.
Indeed, the intraocular lens required is usually different even between the two eyes of the same patient.
If the “Premium” or “Optimum” pathway is chosen, these measurements will be carried out at least four weeks after your initial consultation. In order for the advanced measurements to be as accurate as possible, the eyes need to be pre-treated with drops and tablets prior to the measurements appointment. This advanced measurement appointment is highly detailed and takes approximately 60 minutes to complete.
What does the surgical procedure involve?
Dr Kitchen has personally performed more than 20,000 cataract surgeries and thousands more other types of eye surgeries. The operation is carried out at the hospital as a day procedure under local anaesthetic. This means you will be awake for the surgery, but you won’t feel any pain. Local anaesthetic will be instilled in and around your eye in the form of drops, a gel, and for some patients, an injection.
Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, a small incision is made at the edge of the cornea. Specialised surgical instruments are passed through this small incision and through the pupil to perform the surgery. Firstly, a small area of the front capsule (the “shell” that encases the cataract) is removed. Then, the cataract is broken up into small pieces and removed from inside the capsule. Lastly, the artificial lens specifically chosen for your eye is inserted to sit inside the capsule. No stitches are required as the first incision is very small. After this, the eye may occasionally be padded for a few hours, or even overnight, especially if needles were indeed used to anaesthetise your eye. Due to his vast experience, the operation generally takes Dr Kitchen between 4 and 6 minutes.
What will postoperative care involve?
After the surgery, patients are given specific anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eye drops to use for a prescribed period, to help aid with the healing process. Postoperative appointments are organised to monitor the healing process and visual progress after the surgery.
What if I have a postoperative concern after hours?
We have an after-hours emergency phone number if you have any concerns after your surgery outside our regular office hours.
What outcome can you expect?
We recommend an appointment with your optometrist at least five weeks after the surgery to update your glasses. Recovery time depends on each person, but most people can expect to feel both eyes have returned to normal by the end of the first week postoperatively. A bit of temporary discomfort and blurriness is to be expected after the surgery and is nothing to be concerned about. If a person has other eye issues which are interfering with their vision, the visual outcome after surgery may not be as they would have liked, but it is usually clear before you undergo surgery what other eye issues you may have that could impact the visual outcome. Most patients are able to drive and return to work one to two days after the surgery.
Can young people get cataracts?
Yes. Although it is much more common in older people, younger people can get cataracts. Occasionally, you can even be born with cataracts.
Can you operate on two eyes at the same time?
If both eyes are affected, they are usually operated on a day or so apart. Surgery is never performed on both eyes on the same day.
Can a cataract return after surgery?
No. Once the cataract has been removed it cannot return.
However, the original lens capsule which now holds the artificial lens, can develop scar tissue over time. This can sometimes mimic the visual symptoms of a cataract. This scar tissue can be treated easily and painlessly with the use of laser. This is carried out at Dr Kitchen’s consulting rooms.
Do I need a referral?
Yes. For Medicare purposes you will need a referral from your optometrist OR doctor.
Can I drive after cataract surgery?
You will NOT be able to drive the day of your surgery or the next day. This is a requirement of the hospital and also because your vision may still be blurry from the surgery.
We recommend you DO NOT drive after your consultation appointments either because you may have dilating drops put in your eyes. These drops dilate your pupils and may take 1-2 hours (sometimes longer) to wear off.
How long will my initial appointment take?
For us to be able to do a thorough examination of your eyes, please allow 1-2 hours for your initial appointment.
Will I need glasses after my cataract surgery?
Depending on the pathway you choose, you may need glasses following surgery.
- Fast Track/Standard pathway patients will require glasses for reading and possibly all tasks.
- Optimum pathway patients will require glasses probably just for reading.
- Premium pathway patients most likely won’t require glasses after surgery, although on our own audits 10% of patients do prefer to still use glasses for some tasks such as fine, near work like jewellery making etc.
We recommend that you see your optometrist five weeks after surgery and they will advise you about your glasses requirements then.
How soon can I get back to normal/drive/play sport?
Recovery time depends on each person, but most people have returned to daily activities by the end of the first week after surgery. Most patients are able to drive and return to work within a few days postoperatively.
How long will I be in hospital?
Cataract surgery is a day surgery procedure only. You will likely be at the hospital for 3-4 hours.
Do you have further questions?
We are here to help!
Please contact our friendly team. We are happy to discuss any concerns you may have to help you feel at ease with your surgical decisions.
CQ Eye Centre
31 Kirkellen Street
North Rockhampton, QLD 4701
- 07 4927 3531
- 07 4927 5364
CQ Eye Centre
Mater Hospital, Rosella Street
Gladstone, QLD 4680
- 07 4972 7946
- 07 4972 7454
Bulk Billing available
Bulk billing is available for all cataract related consultations and measurements for eligible patients with a valid Medicare card. Please check with us prior to your consultation to ensure you are eligible to be bulk billed and have chosen the relevant cataract surgery pathway that suits your desires and needs.
Click here for more information on cataract surgery options and cost.
We offer no gap cataract surgery for those patients with the appropriate level of private health insurance and who have chosen this cataract surgery pathway.