How cataract surgery can change someone’s life  

Posted on 8 December 2017

Although its a relatively simple procedure – and most people still need to use reading glasses afterward – cataract surgery can significantly improve your quality of life.

Imagine if your vision progressively worsens until the whole world is blurry – that is what cataract patients see, explains Dr Willem Gerber, an ophthalmologist at Mediclinic Durbanville.

‘A cataract is just a gradual thickening of the natural lens in the eye – as you grow older it becomes denser and denser until the window of the eye becomes so opaque you can’t see anything,’ he adds.

The intricacies of cataract surgery depend on how dense the cataract is. ‘With early cataracts, we do a procedure called phacoemulsification which, in simple terms, is a micro-incision surgery technique where we break up the cataract with sonar, Dr Gerber explains.

‘For cataracts that have progressed to the point where patients can only see large hand movements, we can’t use ultra-sound to break it up as the cataract is too hard. Then you have to make a bigger incision to remove the cataract manually as a whole.’ The eye’s clouded lens is then replaced with a synthetic version called an intraocular lens (IOL) to restore clear vision.

New IOL’s are constantly being developed all the time to improve surgical outcomes for both the surgeon and the patient, Dr Mpopi Lenake, an ophthalmologist at Mediclinic Vergelegen explains.

The monofocal IOL has a fixed focus for one distance. Presbyopia-correcting IOL’s (also known as multifocal IOL’s) have the potential to help patients see at more than one distance. Toric IOL’s are designed to correct both cataracts and astigmatism at the time of surgery.

Dr Gerber recently performed five cataract procedures on public health patients at Mediclinic Durbanville Day Clinic. This surgery formed part of a broader initiative: Mediclinic is collaborating with the public sector by performing 100 operations on patients currently awaiting surgery in many of the busiest public sector hospitals.)

Dr Steve Steyn, the ophthalmic surgeon who performed 22 cataract procedures on a pro-bono basis at Mediclinic Welkom adds that says that restoring someone’s sight is the best feeling in the world. ‘Seeing a person smile the next day – and be able to perform his normal duties with crystal clear vision – makes me love my job,’ he says.


Published in CSI

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