Cataract removal is one of the most common surgical procedures performed in Australia. It is also one of the safest and most effective.
Cataract is an eye condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, making it difficult to see. A small operation can replace the cloudy lens with a clear, permanent, artificial lens. "The success rate of cataract surgery is exceptionally high," said Richard Barry, a Canberra-based ophthalmologist and principal of Blink Eye Clinic, a state-of-the-art clinic featuring the latest in ophthalmic technology.
Dr Barry specialises in advanced cataract surgery, as well as medical and surgical diseases of the retina and macula. "In many cases people feel their vision is not as good as it once was because they are getting older,'' said Dr Barry. ''But age alone is not a reason for poor vision: the most common cause of visual impairment as you age are cataracts and macular degeneration.
"At first, people may notice that their glasses are not quite right and visit an optometrist for an updated prescription. They may find their prescription is changing frequently, and sometimes complain that their glasses always seem dirty or smudged. But it's not that their glasses are dirty, rather a cataract that makes them think they are."
Symptoms may go unnoticed in the early stages. Then, as the cataracts develop, they may cause faded colours, cloudy or blurry vision, poor night vision, increased glare, and difficulty distinguishing between similar colours. This can translate into difficulty driving at night, reduced participation in outdoor activities, and having trouble with tasks such as sewing, reading or cooking, said Dr Barry.
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A graduate of the prestigious Sydney Eye Hospital, Dr Barry subsequently obtained international fellowship training in complex cataract and vitreoretinal surgery, providing him with a more complete skill set to manage anterior and posterior segment diseases of the eye. A highly regarded and expert cataract surgeon, he has extensive experience in the most challenging cases, and with the use of premium intraocular lenses.
"Cataract surgery is a safe, quick, painless and highly-effective solution to a condition that once often required lengthy hospital stays," said Dr Barry. "These days, cataract surgery is a micro-incision, suture-free, 10-minute procedure undertaken in a day surgery facility or hospital. The equipment used has advanced greatly over recent years, and visual recovery in many cases is within 24 hours. Often people will have 20/20 vision the following day."
The surgery involves a local anaesthetic, and mild sedation should the patient desire, explained Dr Barry. "This painless procedure involves two or three small incisions to access the cataract, which is removed with an ultrasound, and a new artificial lens implanted to restore vision."
Most people who have had cataract surgery in the past will have had monofocal intraocular lenses implanted and, therefore, in most cases still require glasses for certain tasks, added Dr Barry. Around 90 per cent of people choosing these lenses will no longer need glasses after cataract surgery.