What is a cataract?

Cataract is a common condition whereby the natural lens inside your eye becomes cloudy, causing visual disturbances including blurring and glare. Usually, cataracts are simply related to increasing age, but occasionally they are related to other problems like diabetes, some medication, or trauma.

Does my cataract need treatment?

Cataracts do not always require treatment. Due to the small risks associated with any operation, surgery is only generally recommended when the cataract is having an impact on your quality of life or your ability to drive or work. If you are not having any problems with your vision, or if you simply do not want to have surgery, it is usually safe to leave the cataract alone.

How can a cataract be treated?

Cataracts can only be treated with surgery. During cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed from inside the eye and then replaced with a clear, plastic lens. This is usually performed under local anaesthetic, and patients can go home an hour or so later.

Although problems can happen during and after cataract surgery, for the vast majority of people it is a quick, safe, and successful procedure. In most cases, the implanted artificial lens is chosen with the aim of providing good distance vision afterwards (e.g. for driving, watching television). Glasses are often required for fine-tuning your distance vision, and almost all patients will need glasses for near (reading small print, using smartphone) and intermediate vision (dashboard, dinner-plate, compute). For patients who wish to have more freedom from glasses after surgery, other types of implantable lens are available in the private sector.

How do I access the cataract service?

Please start by visiting your optician. They will be able to access your vision and determine the cause of your visual problems and whether further treatment is required. Their report is then passed to your GP, who can refer you for a specialist eye consultation along with details of your previous medical history. Visiting your optician first ensure that you are directed to the correct service in the most time-efficient way.

If you are referred to receive NHS treatment the main sites are at University Hospitals Dorset, and Dorset County Hospital, however other providers are available in the area and you can speak to your GP about options.

I have had cataract surgery but am having problems. What should I do?

If you have recently had cataract surgery and are concerned about pain, worsening vision, or increasing redness, please phone the Eye Department in Bournemouth or the Eye Casualty Triage in Dorchester for advice.

If you have recently had cataract surgery and have concerns about your eye-drops, aftercare, or other non-emergency issues, please contact your named consultant’s secretary via the hospital switchboard.

If you have been discharged after having had cataract surgery previously, and are now having new problems with your eyes or vision, please visit your optician for an assessment. They will be able to determine the nature of your problems and refer you back to the hospital if required.

The cataract pathway – what you need to know

The Cataract Pathway video, created by University Hospitals Dorset, provides more information about the process of having a cataract operation at one of our NHS hospitals.