A close-up photograph of an eye. Cataracts are a condition which affect the eye.

What are Cataracts?

What are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a common type of vision impairment where the lens inside of the eye develops cloudy patches.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?

In addition to cloudy vision – a bit like frosted glass – some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty seeing in low light
  • Finding lights to be too bright, dazzling or uncomfortable
  • Some colours may look faded, or less clear
  • You may see haloes (circles of light) around bright lights, like car or street lights
  • Double vision from one eye

Cataracts are not normally painful. However, they can be once they reach an advanced stage, or if you have another eye condition.

If left untreated cataracts are likely to worsen over time and can lead to vision being completely impaired. In 2010 the World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that cataracts are the leading cause of blindness; representing around 51% of world blindness.

What causes cataracts?

Cataracts are often linked to aging. However, several other factors may also increase your risk of developing cataracts, including:

  • A family history of cataracts
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Long-term steroid use

Cataracts in children are rare. So, only between three and four, out of 10,000 children, are estimated to be affected by them in the UK.

What treatment is available for cataracts?

Glasses and contact lenses will not help. Currently, the only effective treatment is surgery.

Cataract surgery is the most common surgery in the UK, with almost half a million operations taking place each year.

The operation itself is relatively straightforward and only takes about 30 to 45 minutes to complete. It is usually performed as outpatient procedure.

During the operation, the surgeon will remove the cloudy lens and replace it with an artificial lens (called an intraocular lens, or IOL).

There are two type of lens:

  1. Monofocal lenses. These have a single point of focus and are what NHS patients will usually receive.
  2. Multifocal or accommodating lenses. These focus at a variety of ranges and are available to patients privately.

How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?

You will normally leave hospital on the same day as the surgery.

Your vision should begin to improve after a few days, as your eye heals and adjusts. Minor side-effects are not unusual, such as:

  • A gritty feeling in the eye
  • Eye watering
  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision
  • Red or bloodshot eye

Although these symptoms should resolve within a few days for most people, you should allow between four and six weeks.

Your doctor will probably prescribe eye drops to prevent infection, reduce inflammation and control eye pressure. It is also very likely you’ll be given a protective shield to protect your eyes from sunlight and other bright lights. The NHS have a list of dos and don’ts whilst recovering from surgery so you can ensure optimal recovery.

If you need new glasses, you will not be able to order them until you have completely recovered.

What are the risks of cataract surgery?

The risk of a serious complication is very low, but as with most surgeries there is a small risk of infection.

More severe risks, specific to cataract surgery, include:

  • Retinal detachment
  • Inflammation
  • Swelling
  • Retention of pieces of the cataract inside the eye
  • Bleeding
  • Fluid build-up in the retina
  • Dislocated intraocular lens
  • Floaters, or flashes of light
  • High eye pressure, known as ocular hypertension. This can lead to Glaucoma
  • Light sensitivity, which does not resolve after a few days
  • Droopy eye lid, known as ptosis
  • Dysphotopsia

The risk of losing sight in the eye being operated on is about one in 1,000.

The medical staff treating you must provide you with full details of all the risks to you, before you undergo treatment, so that you can give informed consent. If you suffered because of a risk you were not adequately advised of, you might be able to make a medical negligence claim.

Do you need help following negligent cataract surgery?

Pryers Solicitors are medical negligence specialists. This means whether you’ve been injured by poor surgery, inadequate advice about the risks or a sub-standard product, we can help you claim compensation.

If you think you’ve been injured as a result of negligence, contact us to talk about making a claim on a no win no fee basis. We will advise you for free if we can help you make a claim. You can call us on 01904 556600 or contact us by email.