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What are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a common eye condition that can affect anyone, especially as people age. Cataracts occur when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy, leading to blurry vision and visual impairments.

They often develop gradually, causing problems such as difficulty reading, driving, or recognizing faces. Cataracts can also make colours appear dull and increase sensitivity to glare.

Phacoemulsification: A Modern Solution

Phacoemulsification is the most common and effective surgical technique used to remove cataracts. This procedure is considered safe and minimally invasive, often performed by skilled ophthalmologists. Patients are not required to stay overnight in the hospital.

Here’s an overview of how phacoemulsification works:

  1. Anaesthesia: The eye is numbed using eye drops or a local anaesthetic injection to ensure a painless experience.
  1. Tiny Incision: A small incision is made in the cornea which is the transparent front part of the eye.
  1. Phacoemulsification: A tiny probe is inserted through the incision. This probe emits ultrasound waves that break the cloudy lens into small pieces, which are then gently suctioned out.
  1. Intraocular Lens Implantation: Once the cataract is removed, an artificial lens, known as an intraocular lens (IOL), is implanted to replace the natural lens. The IOL remains permanently in the eye and helps to restore clear vision.

Intraocular Lens (IOL) Implants:

IOLs are artificial lenses that come in different types and designs, allowing customization based on each patient’s specific needs. Some key points about IOL implants include:

  1. Lens Selection: The choice of IOL depends on factors such as the patient’s visual requirements, lifestyle, and any existing eye conditions. All IOL implants can correct short or long sightedness. There are different types of lenses to choose from. Monofocal lenses provide clear vision at one distance. Multifocal or presbyopia-correcting lenses improve vision at various distances, addressing the age-related difficulty in focusing on close objects known as presbyopia.
  1. Astigmatism Correction: For patients with astigmatism (a common condition causing blurry or distorted vision), specialised toric IOLs can be used to correct this refractive error during the cataract surgery.
  1. Customised Solutions: In certain cases, advanced IOLs, such as multifocal or extended depth of focus (EDOF) lenses, can provide enhanced vision for activities like reading, computer use, and driving.

Recovery and Follow-up:

Following phacoemulsification and IOL implantation, patients typically experience a relatively quick recovery. The eye may feel slightly scratchy or irritated initially, but discomfort is generally mild and short-lived. Vision gradually improves over time, with final results typically achieved within a few weeks. Regular follow-up visits with the ophthalmologist are essential to monitor progress and address any concerns.


Cataracts can significantly impact your vision and overall quality of life. However, modern surgical techniques like phacoemulsification, combined with the use of intraocular lens implants, offer effective solutions to restore clear vision. If you suspect you have cataracts, please consult an ophthalmologist who can guide you through the diagnosis, treatment options, and provide personalised recommendations for your visual needs.

Remember, with timely intervention, cataracts can be successfully treated, allowing you to regain the joy of clear vision.

Information by:

Dr Ong Chin Tuan

Consultant Ophthalmologist, Oculoplastic and Lacrimal Surgeon

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