Your eye works a lot like a camera. Light rays focus through your lens onto the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. Similar to photographic film, the retina allows the image to be “seen” by the brain.
Over time, the lens of our eye can become cloudy, preventing light rays from passing clearly through the lens.
The loss of transparency may be so mild that vision is barely affected, or it can be so severe that no shapes or movements are seen—only light and dark. When the lens becomes cloudy enough to obstruct vision to any significant degree, it is called a cataract.
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Ophthalmologists are medically trained doctors who have undertaken further specialist training in matters relating to the human eye. They examine, diagnose and treat diseases and injuries of the eye and the surrounding areas like the socket and eyelids. They can prescribe a wide range of medicines, may perform eye surgery and typically work in the hospital eye service.
Orthoptists diagnose and treat defects of vision and abnormalities of eye movement, including vision problems in children. They are usually part of a hospital care team looking after people with eye problems especially those related to binocular vision, amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (squint).
Optometrists examine eyes, give advice on visual problems and prescribe and fit glasses or contact lenses. They are usually employed in the high street but may also work with or in the hospital eye service. See the College of Optometrists website.
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A cloudy lens interferes with light passing through to the retina, the light-sensing layer of cells at the back of the eye. Having a cataract can be compared to looking at the world through a foggy window.
Phacoemulsification is a surgical method used to remove a cataract, which is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens.
In phacoemulsification, an ultrasonic oscillating probe is inserted into the eye through a small incision. The probe breaks up the center of the cataractous lens. The fragments of the cataract are then suctioned from the eye.
The small incision used does not require sutures to close, since the cataract is removed in tiny pieces. The back-portion of the supportive lens capsule or “bag” is left behind and a foldable intraocular lens (IOL) is implanted permanently inside the “bag” to help focus light onto the retina.
Vision returns quickly and one can resume normal tasks, within a week for most activities.
Cataract surgery is a very successful operation worldwide, and 95% have a successful result.