Dr André Burger

OPHTHALMOLOGIST • OFTALMOLOOG

PIETERMARITZBURG

UNDERSTANDING CATARACT

How do we see?

The eye works very much like a camera. To take a photo, light enters through the transparent lens and needs to be focused on the photographic film of the camera.

The eye has two lenses (First, we have the Cornea which is the front glass of the eye, which one would see when looking at the patient from the side, and secondly, the intra ocular lens, which is located behind the pupil and the iris, which is located inside the eye. It is this second lens which is affected by cataract).

The photographic film, or light sensitive tissue of the eye, is known as the retina.

Light enters through the two transparent lenses to be focused onto the retina. When the light energy reaches the retina, it is changed into an electrical signal which travels along the visual pathway to the back of the brain to form a picture.

What is a cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the intra ocular lens, inside the eye. (Like a frosted bathroom window, instead of a clear window) The lens is made of water and protein. The protein is arranged in a precise pattern that keeps the lens clear and allows light to pass through it.

During cataract formation, some of the protein may clump together and start to cloud the lens. If the lens is cloudy from a cataract, the image you see will be blurred or out of focus. Cataracts are very common in older people.

How can cataracts affect my vision?

Cataract reduces the sharpness of the image reaching the retina and thus blurs vision.

It may also cause difficulty with reading, recognizing faces, appreciating colour, appreciating contrast and detail. It may cause poor night vision. It may cause scattering of light or glare, which in turn impairs one’s ability to judge distances at night whilst driving, due to oncoming lights.

Headlights, lamps, or sunlight may appear too bright. A halo may appear around lights. It can cause double vision. You may notice frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses, which becomes very expensive. These symptoms also can be a sign of other eye problems. If you have any of these symptoms, please contact Dr. Burger's rooms for an eye appointment.

Who is at risk for cataract?

The risk of cataract increases as you get older. Other common risk factors include:
Diabetes,
prolonged steroid usage,
prolonged sunlight exposure,
heavy smoking and alcohol use.

If you are age 55 or older, you should have a comprehensive eye exam at least once every two years. In addition to cataract, Dr. Burger can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders. Early detection and treatment may save your sight.

How is a cataract treated?

Cataract removal is one of the most commonly performed operations in the world. It is also one of the safest and most effective types of surgery.

The operation involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an artificial lens.

Dr. Burger will help you to make a decision regarding surgery after discussing the risks and benefits. He performs small incision cataract surgery using state of the art techniques and technologies.