cataractsCataracts are usually diagnosed in people over the age of 40 and are the most common cause of loss of vision. Cataracts occur when changes in the lens of the eye cause it to become less transparent. This ultimately will result in a clouding or misting of the patient's vision.

Causes of Cataracts

There are a number of causes of cataracts, but the most common is age. As we get older, our eyes can form layers of proteins on the lens, which then clump together causing what we call Cataracts. When the lens is affected it is unable to pass the light to the retina as it should, which then distorts our vision.

There are other risk factors, although not directly can still lead to the forming of Cataracts. These include:

  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Hypertension (High blood pressure)
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Prolonged use of certain medications, such as steroids
  • Previous eye injuries
  • Previous eye surgery
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Strokes

Diagnosing Cataracts

In order to diagnose cataracts and other eye conditions, an eye specialist will carry out a series of tests including dilating the eye to examine the cornea, iris and retina.

If cataracts are found you may or may not require surgery and this will largely depend on the severity of the cataracts and to what degree they affect your vision.

If the vision is only very mild, surgery may not be required and may be corrected using sunglasses to reduce glare or more appropriate glasses to help alleviate the symptoms.

However, if the vision is more severely affected and prevents the patient from doing everyday tasks such as driving, reading or using a computer screen, eye surgery will be the most likely course of action.

Femtosecond Laser Cataract Surgery

University Hospital La Zarzuela in Madrid and a number of other hospitals within the Sanitas network have incorporated the Femtosecond laser for cataract surgery, which is considered one of the biggest breakthroughs in Cataract treatment in the last 25 years.

The Femtosecond laser treatment uses laser energy to separate the tissues as opposed to the traditional method of dissection using surgical instrumentation.

Femtosecond laser procedures are a technological landmark in the treatment of cataracts and will transform the cataract lens surgery as it allows for:-

  • A more personalised procedure of the surgical maneuvers through a three-dimensional visualisation system, which can view the internal structures of the eye.
  • A reduction in the possibility of infection and surgical complications as the procedure is carried out without cuts or incisions to the eye.
  • A more automated surgical procedure without the need for manual intervention by a surgeon providing the patient with greater precision, control and surgical safety.

One of the first stages of the treatment is to perform corneal incisions so that the inside of the eye can be accessed. Using the Femtosecond laser, the correct incisions are programmed in, which allows for the replacement of the traditional scalpel.

The second important step is to open the capsule that holds the lens and then using ultrasound to fragment the existing crystalline core. The lens is then safely removed and replaced with a clear artificial Intraocular Lens (IOL).

The operation is usually done during day surgery and under local anaesthetic. Cataract surgery is a fairly straight forward procedure and will generally take around 45 minutes to complete.

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