Cataract surgery has advanced to the point where it is now a micro-incision, highly sophisticated and efficient procedure. A new artificial lens can bring a blurry, glare-filled world back to life for many patients.
Cataracts cause around 40 per cent of visual impairment in Australians aged 55 and over, according to the Federal Department of Health.
Dr Richard Barry, a Canberra-based specialist ophthalmologist and the principal of Blink Eye Clinic, a state-of-the-art practice featuring cutting-edge ophthalmic technology, specialises in 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. 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," says Dr Barry.
"At first, many people notice that their glasses are not quite right and visit an optometrist for an updated prescription. Their prescription may change frequently, and they may complain that their glasses always seem dirty or smudged. But it is not that their glasses are dirty, rather a cataract that makes them think they are."
Other symptoms include difficulty with night driving due to significant glare, ghost images - one clear image side-by-side with a faded image - and difficulty reading.
A graduate of the highly regarded 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. The respected and expert cataract surgeon has extensive experience in the most challenging cases, and with the use of premium intraocular lenses.
"Cataract surgery involves replacing the cloudy lens with a clear, permanent, artificial lens, and is a microsurgical suture-less day surgery procedure and a highly effective solution to a condition that once often required a lengthy hospital admission," says Dr Barry. "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 some twilight sedation if the patient desires, Dr Barry explains. "The procedure involves two or three small incisions to access the cataract, which is removed with an ultrasound, and a new artificial lens implanted to focus light onto the retina and restore vision. The success rate of cataract surgery is exceptionally high. Better still, it is only required once, as cataracts do not return. The artificial lens does not deteriorate over time like the natural lens does.
"My cataract practice at Blink Eye Clinic in Barton has invested in the most up-to-date technology to deliver exceptionally consistent and predictable post-operative results. Each person is unique to the type of intraocular lens that will suit them best. Attention to detail and understanding the patients' expectations and lifestyle is so important.
"At the private hospital where I operate, we use, what I believe to be, a genuinely elite cataract surgery set-up which digitally integrates with my private practice equipment. Patient information is transferred from my practice devices directly to the operating microscope via a cloud-based application. This ensures a flawless data transfer optimising accuracy and reducing errors to negligible levels.
"There are some exciting new devices and lenses I have been using and I am amongst the first surgeons in the country to adapt to these cutting-edge technologies. I am excited and always amazed by how such a sophisticated operation is continuing to advance and be refined year by year.
"Blink Eye Clinic also has other ophthalmology subspecialists who can greatly contribute to the more complex cataract surgery patients. My area of expertise is in macula and retina disease, Dr Spargo's is strabismus and joining Blink Eye Clinic soon is a specialist in glaucoma. These diseases often co-exist with cataracts and having a comprehensive subspecialist team truly adds even more value to the service provided at Blink. The future is looking bright."