Myth 1: Eye drops can prevent or dissolve cataracts
Many feel that “cataracts are preventable” or believe that “some eyedrops are available that help prevent cataract formation”. However, cataracts result from clouding of the natural eye lens that occurs with aging.
In as much as it is impossible to prevent hair from greying with age, there is no treatment available to prevent this aging process in the eye lens. One may only be able to slow down the progression of cataracts by cessation of smoking and wearing of sunglasses that provide 100% UVA and UVB protection.
Some eyedrops have been touted to “dissolve away” cataracts but no such medication has to date been approved by US Food and Drug Administration. The only way to eliminate the cataract is through surgery and replacement of the old lens with a new intraocular lens implant. Eyedrops following surgery will aid in wound healing and visual recovery.
Myth 2: Close-up work like intensive reading and sewing, especially in dim light, makes cataract worse
There is no evidence to support this belief. It likely arose from common observations that stronger light is needed to perform these tasks during the early stages of cataract formation. In other words, as a cataract develops, stronger light helps to compensate for the clouding of the lens when one is engaged in close-up work.
As the cataract naturally worsens with time and further aging, and even stronger light is needed to do the same work, it is easy to attribute the close-up work to worsening of the cataract.
Myth 3: Cataracts are reversible
Once formed, cataracts are not reversible. Surgery is the only means of removing the cataract and allowing restoration of vision through implantation of a new intraocular lens.
Myth 4: Cataract surgery is dangerous and recovery takes months
In the past, cataracts were removed whole. This necessitated a large wound on the eye surface and patients were advised to rest for a few months to allow full recovery. This may have led to some thinking that the surgery is troublesome and fraught with risk.
Fortunately, cataract eye surgery has evolved since then to become one of the most sophisticated and precise micro-surgeries in the field of medicine. Success rate is 95% and in experienced hands, close to 100%. Risks associated with cataract surgery certainly exist and can be estimated following a detailed eye examination.
In most patients, the risk is almost negligible. Additionally, most will see an improvement in vision as early as the day after surgery or a few days following surgery. With micro-incisions, although care still has to be taken to avoid strenuous activity or head-down position for a few weeks, most can resume normal activities one month after cataract surgery.
For those who work in offices, it is also possible in some cases to resume work after a week’s rest.
Myth 5: Cataract surgery is only required when vision is badly affected
In the past when cataract surgery was less developed and associated with higher risk and longer recovery, it was normal to hear that the cataract had to be fully mature or “ripe” first before contemplating cataract surgery.
With modern technology, low risk and shorter recovery period, it is now the normal practice to recommend cataract surgery once the cataract has reduced vison to the point that ordinary activities such as reading or driving are affected.
One does not have to wait till vision is totally blurred to have surgery performed. In fact, postponing surgery to a late stage could potentially increase the risk of complications as dense cataracts pose more technological difficulties during surgery.
Myth 6: LASIK is used to remove cataracts
LASIK is a laser procedure that works on the cornea to treat myopia (short sight), hyperopia (long-sight) and astigmatism. It is not used in cataract surgery.
The laser that is employed in cataract surgery is known as femtosecond laser and the surgery is known as femtosecond-laser assisted cataract surgery. In this procedure, the femtosecond laser is used in place of surgical micro-instrumentation for a few steps in cataract surgery.
Most of the cataract surgery still requires the surgeon to use phacoemulsification or ultrasound fragmentation to remove the cataract. Most cataract surgeries in Singapore are performed without femtosecond laser assistance as no significant benefits are derived despite the higher costs involved when the femtosecond laser is employed.
Myth 7: Cataracts grow back and require another surgery later on
Cataracts, once removed, do not grow back.
However, the lens membrane which is left behind to support the lens implant may opacify months or years after cataract surgery. In a few individuals, the opacification is already evident at the time of surgery.
Patients therefore may experience blurred vision as though “the cataract has grown back”. There should be no worries when this is encountered. Your Singapore eye clinic will recommend a laser procedure known as a Yag laser capsulotomy to allow quick restoration of vision. No additional surgery is required.