How are cataracts treated? The cataract operation
The only effective and definitive treatment known so far is cataract surgery, which means the replacement of the cloudy lens with a new artificial lens. Neither medicines nor alternative remedies such as homeopathy, acupuncture etc. have proven healing.
In cataract surgery, a small incision (approx. 1.8 mm) is made at the edge of the cornea. The cloudy, hardened lens core is liquefied and suctioned with a highly efficient ultrasound device (so-called phacoemulsification), while the lens capsule is preserved.
For soft lenses, a laser can also be used. Instead of the removed cataract lens, an artificial lens made of high-quality medical plastic (intraocular lens (IOL)) is inserted, which restores the transparency and function of the original lens.
The very small, self-sealing incisions do not require sutures enable fast visual rehabilitation within a few days after the operation, provided there were no other eye diseases additionally to cataracts.
In rare cases, a weakness of the lens capsule or the lens suspension apparatus may be found, which could make the insertion of a standard lens difficult or impossible. In these cases, a lens with an alternative fixation system must be inserted.
As a rule, the visual performance will be equally good.
When should a cataract be operated on?
As a general rule, surgery is recommended when the patient’s vision is no longer sufficient for daily requirements and when the patient is ready for surgery.
A cataract that has existed for a very long time is often accompanied by increased lens hardness, which can make the operation more difficult and lead to complications.
Drivers should schedule the operation earlier to ensure that they do not fall below the minimum legal requirements for vision.
How should I prepare for the operation?
During the pre-operative examination a few days before the operation, a particularly precise measurement of the eye – a so-called biometry with a laser interferometer – is carried out. In addition, the retina and cornea are examined, with the aim of ruling out accompanying problems and allowing a particularly accurate prognosis of vision. With all data, the ideal type and strength of the intraocular lens can be determined for each individual patient.
Additionally, a general health examination including blood count and ECG is also necessary. These examinations are usually carried out by the patient’s general practitioner, who certifies that the patient is fit for surgery. At our centre, the anesthetists team is responsible for this. On request, the general examination can be carried out by them.
Drugs for diabetes, blood thinning, cardiovascular and prostate diseases require a special consultation before the operation.
A few days before the operation, pre-treatment with antibiotic eye drops is necessary; these drops will be prescribed in good time.
As a rule, only one eye is operated per session; the second eye may follow a few days after the first. This procedure minimizes risks.
All details, as well as the type of anesthesia and the type of lens to be implanted are discussed in detail with our team during the explanatory consultation prior to the operation.
What does the operation day look like?
At home: Please shower and wash your hair on the day of the operation. Wear comfortable (wide) clothing and please do not wear make-up, hair clips or jewellery. Do not eat anything for at least 6 hours before the operation, i.e. breakfast is not necessary on the morning of the operation. However, usual medication (heart and blood pressure) should be taken, except insulin or diabetes tablets. You can eat again immediately after the operation.
In the operating theatre: On arrival at the clinic, drops are administered to prepare the pupil. In the changing room you will remove your clothes and put on a sterile pyjama. Sedation and local anaesthesia of the eye will follow, and finally the operation itself, which takes between 15 and 20 minutes.