Cataract Awareness Month and local patient experience for Portsmouth residents

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It is the start of Cataract Awareness Month in the UK – a condition which affects sight for one in three adults. Below is advice from local Optegra Eye Hospital Hampshire (in Whiteley) with all you need to know – from symptoms, to treatment to dispelling some myths around cataract.

One in three of us will experience cataracts at some point in our lives and while treatment is readily available and hugely successful, there are still a few myths surrounding the condition.

That’s why Optegra Eye Hospital Hampshire is supporting June’s Cataract Awareness Month with a handy guide providing practical advice to help more people achieve the clear vision they deserve and dispel those long-standing myths.

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Firstly, what exactly is a cataract? Cataracts form over time as the natural lens of the eye hardens with age, leaving you with cloudy or blurred vision, faded colours, particularly poor vision at night and problems with glare from bright lights like car headlights.

Optegra Hampshire patient Mark DownieOptegra Hampshire patient Mark Downie
Optegra Hampshire patient Mark Downie

Many people do not realize they have cataracts initially as it only affects part of the lens, but over time the cataract gets larger and your lens becomes increasingly cloudy.

Vision with cataracts: Vision following cataract surgery:

What causes cataract? From age to eczema to diabetes or eye injury – there are many possible causes for cataract. But the number one cause is age!

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What happens during cataract surgery? Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure, with over 330,000 cases performed each year in England alone. Drops are used to numb the eye before a tiny incision is made to remove the cloudy lens, replacing it with a synthetic intraocular lens (IOL). This is the only treatment and without it, severe or ‘white’ cataracts can lead to loss of sight - globally, 20 million people are blind due to cataracts.

How long does cataract surgery take? Usually just 10-15 minutes per eye and it is a painless procedure conducted as a day case.

Can I do anything to help prevent cataract? Try eating foods high in Vitamin C, like citrus fruit, to help delay the onset of cataract. Also, wear sunglasses with UV protection to shield eyes from harmful ultraviolet rays and reduce alcohol intake.

Cataract surgery can be truly life changing – here’s how!

“My chance to be free of glasses AND cataract”

Mark Downie from Hampshire discovered an opportunity to be free of glasses with his cataract op: “I was struggling to read number plates at the required distances, even with my glasses on. I was basically told I need to get my cataracts sorted or stop driving - which definitely gave me the impetus to get treatment.

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“Like most guys I was worried about an operation on my eyes, but then I got excited at the prospect of not having to wear glasses at all. It was such a liberating thought – by hook or by crook, I wanted to do it!”

Mr. Robert Morris, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Optegra, said: “Mark had worn glasses for almost twenty years, and initially had been getting headaches due to his vision. This is very common, especially with eye strain from many hours on computers. This prescription, in addition to the more recent cataracts meant that his eyesight had clouded and he was certainly needing his cataract operation in order to continue driving.

“Technologies have advanced so well that we can now offer tailored solutions for cataract surgery. And with a brief, 20-minute pain-free procedure, Mark is now free of glasses after all these years.”

In fact, the very next morning after his procedure, Mark saw the difference. He said: “As soon as I took the eye shields off, I looked out of the window and we have a beautiful view over a nature reserve. Well it looked more beautiful than ever before! I had a whole new crystal-clear world. The colours, the detail on the plants and river, I could even see some houses in the distance nestled in the trees which I had not been able to see before!

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“I was then so excited being able to see everything close-up, I was reading the labels on every bottle in the medicine cabinet and seeing bright shiny colours. No more yellow, murky tinge to everything - I was blown away!”

Even Marks’ partner noticed the difference and said: “On that first morning, I had all the labels in the bathroom read to me and the ones in the kitchen, as well as a full description of the houses and the tiles on their roofs across the other side of the river from us. And now he reads out all the number plates as we drive around – just because he can! He was so completely amazed by the results even so early on.”

Mark notices the difference every day at work where he no longer needs to spend time searching for his specs: “We work with all sorts of technical businesses and write technical documentation to support their products and services – if you like, we are the “Haynes manual writers” for our transport-industry clients from automobile and aircraft to trains and warships! To get this detail correct and be precise in our lengthy documents, it was vital to have excellent vision, and especially as I spend so many hours on the computer.”

Mark’s hobbies include cooking, gardening and time outdoors such as walking and camping. All of these are so much more enjoyable now he can see so clearly.

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Optegra offers two options for patients with cataracts. These include free NHS surgery with a standard lens which means you are likely to still need to use your existing glasses. Or private refractive cataract surgery where the clinical team select a specific multifocal lens tailored to your own prescription – with the opportunity to lose your cataracts and your glasses in one procedure.

Eye Spy a Myth – most commonly heard mistruths around cataract

Ophthalmic Consultant Surgeon, Mr Javad Moayedi, has heard many myths about cataract over the years and wants to clarify:

MYTH: I have to wait until the cataract had fully developed before it can be removed

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FACT: You can have cataract surgery at any time and as soon as it starts to affect your vision.

MYTH: Cataract surgery is painful

FACT: You have a local anaesthetic to numb the eye and all you feel is a little pressure

MYTH: A cataract covers the whole eyeball

FACT: A cataract is the natural clouding of the lens withing the eye which lies behind the pupil and iris, similar to the size of a penny

MYTH: The whole eye has to be removed to fix a cataract

FACT: This is actually impossible! Only the lens is removed – the eyeball is held firmly in place with muscles

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Optegra Eye Health Care is a specialist provider of ophthalmic services. Established in 2007, with its first hospital opening in 2008, it has completed over one million eye procedures from its 39 eye hospitals and over 60 locations across the UK, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia.

Optegra brings together leading-edge research, medical expertise and state-of-the-art surgical equipment. It performs more than 140,000 treatments annually, both private and publicly funded. Its top ophthalmic surgeons are renowned for their areas of expertise, offering excellent clinical outcomes and great patient service.

Tel: 0800 054 1971

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