SpaMedica is the UK’s largest provider of NHS cataract surgery and to mark Cataract Awareness Month, we’ll be explaining what cataracts are, how they can affect people’s day-to-day lives, and the benefits of having cataract surgery.
Cataracts are one of the most common causes of vision loss in the UK and can severely affect people’s independence and quality of life. They’re usually caused as result of aging and tend to affect people aged 65+. Cataracts occur when proteins in the lens of the eye break down and stick together, which leads the lens to develop cloudy patches and become harder to see through.
Cataracts develop gradually and get worse over time, so it may be months – or even years – before someone notices a significant change in the quality of their vision.
Some of the common symptoms of cataracts include:
In this video, some of our NHS cataract patients describe how they first realised something was wrong with their eyesight:
Cataracts can make it difficult for people to do the everyday things they once took for granted – whether that’s driving, watching TV, playing sports, or reading a book. As cataracts develop and get worse over time, sufferers may become more prone to tripping/falling over things, because it’s harder to see uneven surfaces, and more difficult to distinguish between steps or see the edge of kerbs.
People with cataracts often find themselves giving up the hobbies they love because of their vision loss, and the world starts to look less bright and colourful. They may also avoid leaving the house, which can affect their social life and mental health.
It comes as no surprise, then, that people with cataracts are almost twice as likely to develop depression than their peers who don’t have cataracts.
A study carried out over the span of sixteen years, with 280,970 participants, clearly shows the impact that cataracts can have on people’s mental health. It also reveals that people who have surgery to treat their cataracts are less likely to develop depression over time.
Cataracts are usually diagnosed during a routine eye test. Anyone experiencing cataract symptoms should book an eye test at their local opticians as soon as possible, where they’ll be able to confirm the presence of cataracts, determine how advanced they are, and discuss the available treatment options.
Eye tests should be booked every two years as a matter of course.
Most cataracts can be easily treated with a quick and painless surgical procedure that only takes 10-15 minutes to complete. Patients aren’t put to sleep during surgery, eye drops are used to numb the eye beforehand, and there are no needles involved. In fact, cataract surgery is the most common procedure performed worldwide and has a 99% success rate in the UK. Patients usually see a significant improvement in their vision within a matter of days, and it takes just 2-6 weeks to make a full recovery from surgery. Most of our patients experience major improvements in their quality of life and mental health too, and enjoy getting out and about again.
There are three stages to treatment – a pre-operative assessment, the surgery itself, and a post-operative consultation.
If a patient has cataracts in both eyes, they’ll have surgery on one eye at a time to allow one eye to compensate while the other eye is healing.
Here’s another video that shows exactly what to expect during cataract surgery:
All NHS patients have the right to choose where they have their cataract surgery, but not many patients know about this and assume they’ll be referred to their local hospital for treatment. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has put a lot of strain on the NHS, and this has caused a significant delay in waiting times for elective procedures. For cataract surgery, it’s not uncommon for waiting times to exceed 18 weeks. SpaMedica is working in partnership with the NHS to help reduce the pressures caused by the pandemic and, at most of our hospitals, we can offer pre-operative assessments within just four weeks.
All patients have to do is let their GP or optician know they want to be treated at their local SpaMedica.
Our A-Z Resources have lots of information about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of cataracts and answers some of the common questions our patients ask.
Visit our location page to see if there’s a SpaMedica hospital near you.
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