Dr Rick Wolfe leads the field of cataract surgery and Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery (LACS). He pioneered modern ultrasonic cataract surgery in Australia, and has taught the procedure to eye surgeons both locally and overseas.
What is a cataract?
A cataract is a cloudiness that develops in the lens inside of the eye. This cloudiness prevents light from reaching the retina and distorts the formation of clear images. Cataracts are a condition which is usually associated with ageing.
If a cataract is causing significant visual symptoms, cataract surgery may be required to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a new, artificial lens that can provide a better quality of vision. Simultaneously, modern cataract surgery can reduce your dependence on glasses and can, in many ways, significantly improve your quality of life.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Symptoms of cataracts include:
- Cloudy, foggy or fuzzy vision in the distance or when reading
- Distortion of colours (e.g. bright colours become dull)
- Difficultly driving especially at night
- Sensitivity to bright sunlight or glare
- Frequent changes in glasses prescription (e.g. becoming more short-sighted)
Usually those who have developed cataracts find that their glasses start to become less useful and don’t provide the clear vision that they once did. Changes to the prescription of the glasses doesn’t seem to help much or at all.
How does cataract surgery work?
Cataract surgery is performed as a day surgery. Before the procedure the anaesthetist will give you a light sedative to ensure that you are relaxed, calm and comfortable. Anaesthetic eye drops will be used to numb your eye.
Dr Wolfe creates a very small opening in the eye, less than 3mm in length to reach the cataract. The lens, where the cataract forms, is then opened by creating what is known as a capsulorhexis. An ultrasound probe is then used to break-up and remove the cataract from the eye. This process is called phacoemulsification.
Once these fragments of the cloudy natural lens are removed a replacement intra-ocular lens (IOL) is inserted into the eye. The IOLs are flexible and are folded so that they can fit through the tiny opening. Once inside the eye they unfold into position. The IOLs are permanent.
The procedure takes less than 30 minutes but you will stay at the day procedure centre for approximately 2 hours while you recover. You should have someone drive you home and stay with you for the day.
Usually the eyes are treated a minimum of one week apart.
What to expect after cataract surgery?
You will need to arrange for someone to collect you and stay with you at home after the procedure. You should plan to avoid strenuous activity for 48 hours.
Until all the drops wear off, your vision may be blurry, however, most patients see well the next day. You vision will likely fluctuate as the eyes heal then settle over the first few weeks following cataract surgery. There may be some mild discomfort or a gritty sensation for a few days after the procedure.
After cataract surgery, Dr Wolfe will prescribe anti-inflammatory drops to take for a few weeks.
About Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery (LACS)
Dr Rick Wolfe is one of the few surgeons in Victoria performing Laser Assisted Cataract Surgery (LACS). He was one of the first ophthalmologists in Australia to use the new technology of blade-free, laser cataract surgery.
In LACS, a computer-controlled laser is used to perform the first 3 critical steps of cataract surgery with extraordinary accuracy. The LenSx® laser creates precise incisions in the eye, creates a perfectly sized opening in the front of the lens (capsulorhexis) and divides the natural lens. This prepares the eye for the subsequent steps of the surgery (phacoemulsifcation) and insertion of the new lens.
Although cataract surgery is a very safe procedure, recent data suggests that LACS may be more accurate and provide some safety benefit over manual cataract surgery.
Will I need glasses after cataract surgery?
An intra-ocular lens (IOL) must be placed in the eye following removal of the cataract. Without the implantation of this artificial lens you would need to wear very thick and heavy glasses in order to see clearly following surgery. Although the very first IOL was developed in the 1950, in recent times this technology has advanced greatly. Dr Wolfe uses a wide range of IOL designs and the decision of which lens to use is tailored according to each patient’s individual needs.
Precise measurements are taken of the eye and then used to determine the strength of the required implant. Dr Wolfe goes to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of these calculations. IOLs not only correct for short-sightedness and long-sightedness but toric lenses are used by Dr Wolfe in over 80% of patients to precisely address astigmatism.
As a result, most patients will find that they are much less reliant on glasses following cataract surgery and, in fact, many will only wear glasses for reading.
Sophisticated IOL designs are also available to allow for the correction of vision for near, middle and far distances. These multifocal IOLs have become popular as they can provide independence from glasses. Dr Wolfe will discuss at your consultation whether you are a suitable candidate for this type of premium IOL.
Need more information about cataract surgery and Laser-Assisted cataract surgery?
Please note: you will need a referral to see Dr Wolfe for cataract treatment.