Cataracts are the clouding of the eye's natural lens. In recent years, a great deal of progress has been made in the treatment of cataracts, and our ophthalmologists can usually offer you a solution as soon as you begin to have complaints. Glasses and eye drops cannot remove the cloudiness. The only solution for cataracts is to remove the lens which has become opaque and to replace it with an artificial lens. A cataract operation is performed during a short stay or as an outpatient procedure.

What happens in a cataract operation

Before any cataract operation, an in-depth examination must take place. After that, the operation can be scheduled. We utilise the most modern surgical techniques, so that the operation is performed safely and efficiently. The current trend is to use local and topical (eye drops) anaesthesia, and thanks to current techniques, patients must remain in the eye center for only 2 to 3 hours. The sight in the affected eye may improve almost instantaneously, although every patient recovers at his or her own pace. If you choose general anaesthesia, your stay in the eye clinic will be approximately a half a day.

There are different ways to remove the cataract. Usually, the operation itself takes less than 15 minutes. For this operation, we use the standard Phaco method in which the posterior section of the capsule – the sac which holds the lens – remains intact. Via a small opening, the surgeon inserts a hollow tube that vibrates very rapidly in the cataract. This vibration breaks the lens into tiny pieces, which can then be aspirated (sucked out) through the tube. Nowadays, we always insert a lens implant. The latest development involves operating without any stitching. This is possible thanks to foldable lenses. In 2012, our eye center was the first in Belgium to offer a lens replacement without using a scalpel. In fact, this procedure results in even more accurate placement of the implanted lens.

Types of implant lenses

Here is an overview of the different types of implant lenses. 

  1. Monofocal, foldable implant lenses

With these lenses, you will usually no longer require glasses for far-sightedness, only glasses for distances of up to 1 metre—for reading, handiwork, cooking, eating, reading labels in the shop, mobile phone use etc. This lens is partially reimbursed by the National Health Service.

  1. Trifocal, foldable implant lenses

These lenses make it possible to see well in the distance, to read well at 30 to 40 centimetres and at a distance of 70 to 80 centimetres (middle distance: labels in the shop, dashboard, computer, mobile phone etc.). In the beginning, the brain must become accustomed to the new lens situation. Don’t forget to make sure that you have sufficient light while reading. These lenses may cause the appearance of halos around light sources for the first 3 months of use. After 6 to 18 months, these halos will disappear almost completely or become much less bothersome. The operation is reimbursed by the National Health Service. But the implant lenses themselves – which cost 1300 euros – are not paid back by the National Health Service or by the hospitalisation insurance.

It is possible that in 10% of the cases reading glasses will still have to be worn for the fine print. However, the need to use these reading glasses will be extremely limited (e.g. for very fine print, when the lighting is poor or when working on a computer screen). This treatment is permanent. After all, the implant lens has a fixed reading correction, which does not change throughout the years.

  1. Toric, foldable implants lenses

People with astigmatism, or a refractive error, have a cornea that is curved more in one direction than in the other. This causes a distorted image and disrupts their vision both at a distance and up close. Astigmatism can be corrected with a toric implant lens.