Between 2013 and 2014, almost 230,000 cataract extractions took place in Australia. As a condition that's associated with age, cataracts cause a gradual deterioration in eyesight, which in turn reduces the sufferer's quality of life. If you're due to undergo cataract surgery to improve your vision, you might have some worries about the potential risks and complications. Although fewer than 0.1 percent of those who elect for this procedure experience an eye infection, it's worth understanding how they happen and how you can prevent them.
What is a post-cataract surgery eye infection?
Also known as endophthalmitis, a post-surgery infection is a serious side-effect that's thankfully rare. The causative culprits are usually staphylococcus or streptococcus, which are types of bacteria that live on human skin. However, other types of bacteria and viruses have the potential to cause an infection too. Certain patients are more at risk, such as those suffering from diabetes.
How do optometrists help prevent endophthalmitis?
The measures your medical team take will depend on the extent of the procedure, as well as any underlying health conditions. Early in 2017, an in-depth medical report looked into how effective the use of antibiotics is in preventing an infection. It found that there was evidence for both antibiotic injections and eyedrops. As such, if your surgical team decide you should use eyedrops, following their directions keeps you safe.
In addition, your ophthalmologist may discuss whether it's necessary to continue with your usual medications during the post-operative recovery period. Few medications have an effect on the recovery process, but if it's necessary your surgeons will weigh up the risks versus the benefits of halting them.
What can you do to reduce the risk of infection?
Try to avoid entering environments where bacteria love to spread and thrive, such as hot tubs and swimming pools. Your doctors will advise when it's safe to take up such activities again. In addition, try to avoid exposing your eye to irritants that trigger inflammatory processes, such as dust and grime. You should also avoid rubbing your eye, and wash your hands after activities where you might encounter bacteria, such as going to the toilet or preparing food. Even with your best efforts, you may inadvertently touch the area around your eye, which means good hand hygiene is an essential barrier.
Although the risk of developing an infection is rare and there are plenty of steps you can take alongside your optometry team to prevent one, do make sure you educate yourself on the signs of an infection so you can receive treatment promptly. This includes pain, loss of vision and redness, all of which warrant a call to the team that perform your procedure.