Lifestyle cataract surgery suitability criteria
Lifestyle cataract surgery allows you to enjoy a broader range of vision than standard cataract surgery. This option is ideal for those who have an active lifestyle and who value low dependence on glasses for distance and mid-range vision.
To be sure that you are suitable for lifestyle cataract surgery, we will need to examine your eyes at your initial consultation.
How lifestyle cataract surgery works
In this surgery, we replace the cataract with a lens that has a range of focus. We call this extended depth of focus intraocular (EDOF) lens technology. This type of lens can correct the vision so that you can see clearly from 50 cm to the far distance.
Advantages and disadvantages
- Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgery in Australia. The procedure typically takes less than half an hour and does not require an overnight stay
- Cataract surgery is one of the safest surgeries performed on the human body. Generally, your recovery will be short and uneventful, and you will be kept informed at every stage
- Vision is usually improved the day after surgery. Maximum improvement is usually achieved with EDOF, trifocal and toric lenses.
- The lens implants are permanent and ordinarily do not need to be replaced – they are good for the life of the patient
- Mild discomfort: After surgery, it is normal to feel mild discomfort, irritation, or a stingy sensation. If you experience these symptoms you can take paracetamol (such as Panadol, Panamax, Dymadon, or Panadeine). Mild mucous, a small amount of bloody discharge, and watering of the eye is also considered normal
- Driving is not permitted for 24 hours following surgery, due to the sedation used
- Light sensitivity: It is also quite normal to be sensitive to light after surgery. You will be given a pair of dark glasses after your procedure
- You must avoid:
- Rubbing your eyes
- Engaging in strenuous activity/exercise, gardening, or heavy lifting (greater than 10kg) for two weeks
- Wearing eye make-up for one week
- Swimming for two weeks
- Allowing water/shampoo to come into direct contact with the eye for two weeks
Cataract surgery risks
There is a 98 – 99% likelihood of undergoing cataract surgery without complications that may permanently affect your best possible vision.
The risks of not having cataract surgery
In certain people, the growth of a cataract can make them prone to primary angle-closure glaucoma. This is where the drainage channel in the front of the eye (trabecular meshwork) is gradually narrowed by the increasing size of the crystalline lens. Eventually, the drainage channel can become completely blocked, resulting in a rapid increase in the pressure within the eyeball and a painful red eye. Long-sighted patients are more likely to be at risk of angle-closure glaucoma. Your eye specialist will be able to assess if you are at risk of primary angle-closure glaucoma and whether you would benefit from cataract extraction or another treatment to prevent this serious condition.
Options and alternatives
The only way to treat a cataract is to surgically remove it and implant an artificial lens in its place.
An alternative to lifestyle cataract surgery is:
- Laser cataract surgery – Restore clarity of vision AND correct your glasses prescription so you no longer need glasses for reading and distance vision
- Standard cataract surgery – An ideal treatment for someone who has no astigmatism or other refractive error (only approximately 30% of the population).
Does a non-surgical treatment exist?
The alternative to having cataract surgery is quite simply not undergoing surgery. Cataracts are unable to be treated with anything other than a surgical procedure. If they remain untreated, then over time they will continue to cause your visual acuity and contrast sensitivity to gradually decline. Your optometrist may ultimately be unable to prescribe glasses to provide any form of visual clarity.
The cataract will eventually blur your vision to a point where daily activities can become difficult to perform.
In some cases, if you do not opt for surgery, the natural lens will thicken in addition to going cloudy, and can potentially cause the drainage pathway of the eye (the trabecular meshwork) to narrow. This can put you at risk of a condition known as angle-closure glaucoma, which can result in irreversible vision loss.
Lifestyle cataract surgery steps
Step one: We use local anaesthesia in the form of eye drops and light (twilight) sedation. We make a tiny incision in the cornea – the transparent membrane on the surface of the eye – using a laser.
Step two: We insert a fine instrument through the incision, which uses ultrasound vibrations to break up the lens into a fine pulp. We then carefully remove this pulp under microscopic guidance.
Step three: Once we’ve had the cataract removed, we implant the artificial lens (intraocular lens or IOL) using a special lens injector. In the majority of cases, the IOL will sit within the natural ‘bag’ that held the original lens, and the incision heals on its own.
Step four: Once the surgery is complete, we place a clear shield over the eye, which stays on for four hours post-surgery. We will ask you to commence the use of postoperative drops which consist of an antibiotic drop and two anti-inflammatory drops. The surgery takes less than an hour, and generally, the total time at the hospital is approximately three hours.
Lifestyle cataract surgery results
Over 90% of patients achieve excellent (20/25 or better) distance vision without glasses.
In most cases, the lens provides very natural vision quality. The transition to new vision following surgery is relatively easy for most patients.
Most people achieve functional near vision. This means glasses are not usually required to read medium-sized print in good light. Typically, patients need low strength glasses to:
- Read small print
- Read for extended periods
- Browse the internet on a mobile phone
- Read in dim light
- Participate in detailed close activities
A small proportion of patients may need limited use of glasses for specific activities such as driving at night. Some patients may choose to wear progressive glasses for convenience. The likelihood of achieving excellent distance vision without glasses depends on:
- The eye’s health before cataract surgery
- The degree of previous focusing errors