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Treating cataracts

Te whakarauora i te karu puata kore

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If your cataract isn't affecting you very much, your optometrist can monitor your eye for a while to see how it progresses. They can also let you know if your vision is good enough for you to drive.

If your cataract is more severe, your optometrist or general practice team can refer you to an ophthalmologist (specialist eye doctor) to see if surgery will help you. When considering surgery, your ophthalmologist will want to know about your overall health and any other eye conditions such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration or diabetes damage.

Cataract surgery is available through the public health system, and there is a points system to decide who can get it. You need to have a certain score to go on the waiting list for publicly funded surgery. The scoring is based on your vision and the effect your cataracts are having on your life.

Cataract surgeryCataract surgery involves taking out the cloudy lens by making a small (keyhole) cut in your cornea at the front of your eye. The surgeon then replaces it with an artificial lens (also called an intra-ocular lens). The artificial lens can also correct any short-sightedness, long-sightedness and astigmatism you may have. Surgery is usually painless and very safe.

Major complications of cataract surgery are uncommon – they happen in around one in 500 people. Complications can include:

But these risks are small when compared to the risk of leaving the cataract to get worse and cause blindness.

After surgery for cataracts

You can usually go home the same day.

You'll need to use eye drops for several weeks after surgery.

You may notice the following effects that usually disappear within a week or two:

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Written by Canterbury optometrists. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2023.

Sources

Page reference: 117716

Review key: HICAT-117496