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  What is a cataract? Previous Page Next Page 
What is a cataract?
The human eye is like a camera and one of the essential parts is the lens. The lens usually remains clear, but mainly due to age, the lens may become cloudy and light is unable to pass through normally. This may happen in either one or both eyes. This is what is known as a cataract.
Can cataracts spread from eye to eye?
No but they often develop in both eyes at the same time.

Has my cataract been caused by overuse of my eyes?
No. Cataracts are not caused by overuse. Using the eyes when cataracts start to develop will not make the cataract worse.

Is there a link between cataracts and diabetes?
Yes. Cataracts are more common in people who have certain diseases such as diabetes.

Anyone can develop cataracts - it's just a part of growing old?
Most forms of cataracts develop in adult life. The normal process of ageing causes the lens to harden and become cloudy (opaque). This is called age-related cataract and is the common type. It can occur at any time after the age of 40, but usually occurs after 60.

Will I know if a cataract is developing?
Some people may be aware that a cataract is developing. Usually, as a cataract develops, people find their vision becomes blurred or hazy. Often they become more sensitive to light and glare.

What can be done?
The affected lens can be removed and an artificial lens inserted. The operation is very successful and is performed under a local anaesthetic. Patients are able to be treated as a day case and will be able to return home a few hours later.

Am I awake during the operation?
Yes, you are awake. You will have a nurse to hold your hand and the surgeon may talk to you. The operation usually takes 15 to 20 minutes, although this can take longer.

Will I feel pain?
Because of the use of a local anaesthetic, such as eye drops and an injection around the eye, you should not feel any pain.

Will I see anything?
A special surgical drape covers the eye not being operated upon. The microscope light makes it impossible to see through the operated eye although some people report seeing pleasant coloured lights. At the end of the operation, a pad may be placed over your eye. This is usually changed to a plastic shield before you return home.

How will I travel home?
You must arrange for someone to collect you in a car or take a taxi. You will not be able to travel on public transport.

What happens the day after?
You should remove your eye shield. Use the eye drops as directed. Some patients may need to return to the hospital the day after to be checked. You will be notified if you are required to do this.

Will I need further appointments?
You will be required to make an outpatient appointment. This is to check on how you and you eye are doing after the operation. You may need further appointments.


The do's and don'ts!
  • You may return to work a few days after the operation.

  • You may read and watch television.

  • You may wash your hair but try not to get soap or water into your eye.

  • Avoid physical contact sports and anything too strenuous for about a month.

  • Check with the eye doctor when you can start driving again after the operation - you may need to wait until you have some new glasses.


  • Benefits and risks of cataract surgery
    The most obvious benefits are being able to see more clearly and improved colour vision. Because we can choose a replacement lens (lens implant) according to your existing focusing problems, most people find their vision is much improved after surgery but may need to replace their glasses. If you are a driver you may not reach the DVLA's (the Uk's driving regulatory organisation) visual standard if your sight is affected by a cataract, and it may be necessary to have the cataract removed in order to keep your license.

    All operations have a small risk of complications either during or after the operation. There is a one in 1,000 risk of losing sight due to bleeding or infection in the operated eye.

    Some possible complications during the operation:
  • The back part of the lens capsule may be torn, disturbing the gel inside the eye. This may result in reduced vision.

  • All or part of the cataract may drop into the back of the eye. This will mean another operation is required, and may mean having a general anaesthetic.

  • Bleeding inside the eye.

  • The eyeball may be perforated.

  • Bleeding around the eye.


  • Some possible complications after the operation:
  • Bruising of the eye or eyelids.

  • High pressure inside the eye.

  • Clouding of the cornea.

  • Dislocation of the implant.

  • Swelling of the retina.

  • Detached retina, which can lead to loss of sight.

  • Infection around the eye that can lead to loss of sight or even the eye.

  • Allergy to medication used.

  • Incorrect strength of implant.


  • Complications are rare and in most cases can be treated effectively. A very small number of patients may need further surgery. Very rarely some complications can result in blindness.

    In the long term, some patients find their vision becomes cloudy again. This is called posterior capsular opacification. It may come on gradually after months or years. When this happens, the back part of the lens capsule, which was left in the eye to support the implant, becomes cloudy. This prevents light from reaching the retina. To treat this, the eye specialist uses a laser beam to make a small opening in the cloudy membrane in order to improve eyesight. This is a painless outpatient procedure, which normally only takes a few minutes.

    Your surgeon has taken these risks into account when agreeing to carry out a cataract operation on your eye, and he or she feels that the benefits you are likely to gain outweigh these risks.

    After surgery you may notice new floaters and have a feeling of grittiness under the upper lid of the eye that has been operated on. If your eye becomes red, sore or aching in the days after your operation you must contact your hospital. If you notice sudden shadows in your field of vision or flashing lights you should return to the hospital.

    All information is for reference purposes only. If you have any concerns we recommend that you visit a qualified optician.
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