Cataract surgery, increasingly requested

Higher life expectancy results in a greater number of cataract patients and advances in the technique have increased its suitability for correcting refractive errors after the age of 45.

Cataract surgery is, today, the most performed surgical procedure in much of Europe. Just in Spain alone, 350,000 operations are performed each year and this figure is expected to continue rising over the next decade. One of the main reasons is increased life expectancy – an average of 83 years in Spain, the highest in Europe – and the consequent ageing of the population because cataracts are a condition that usually occur after the age of 60.

The crystalline lens loses its transparency and elasticity

As explained by Dr. José Luis Güell, the coordinator of the Cornea, Cataract and Refractive Surgery Department of IMO, “with age, the crystalline lens (the eye’s natural lens) becomes increasingly opaque, which prevents the clear passage of light to the retina and causes progressive loss of vision, resulting in cataracts”.

In addition to loss of transparency, another consequence of the ageing process of the crystalline lens is its loss of elasticity and, therefore, the ability to accommodate or focus. This causes presbyopia or “tired eyes” and usually occurs from the age of 40-45.

According to Dr Güell, “needing to use glasses for reading is the first sign that the properties of the crystalline lens have begun to deteriorate”, which initially manifests itself as tired eyes and is the first step towards cataracts. This initial stage of lens degeneration, also known as dysfunctional lens syndrome can be combated with the same surgical procedure used for cataracts, even if completely incipient, in order to reduce dependence on glasses.

Cataract surgery is becoming increasingly used to correct refractive errors from the age of 45, when the crystalline lens starts to lose its properties.

A technique also suitable for correcting presbyopia

A cataract procedure therefore does not always need to wait until the condition has reached an advanced stage. “Technological innovation enables it to be performed early because the use of automated systems has increased the accuracy and effectiveness of operations”, explains Dr. Daniel Elies, a cornea, cataract and refractive surgery specialist at IMO.

In this regard, Dr Güell adds that “we have image guidance platforms such as Verion, Callisto and True Vision, which allow us to connect preoperative testing and measurements to the proper placement and orientation of intraocular lenses during the procedure”. Another important development is the consolidation of the use of the femtosecond laser in cataract surgery, which can reproduce with great accuracy the microincisions previously designed by the surgeon on the computer to which the laser is connected.

A faster and safer procedure

All of this contributes to the standardisation of the procedure, making it not only faster but also safer, predictive and with better visual results for the patient. “This is one of the main reasons for the growing demand for cataract surgery”, says Dr Elies.

As a result, “cataract surgery, which consists of replacing the crystalline lens with an intraocular lens to perform its function, is an increasingly used option for correcting refractive errors in patients between the ages of 45 and 65”, says Dr Güell, adding that, “after a certain age, the implanted artificial prosthesis is optically better than the natural lens of the patient”.