I am 62 and have had cataract surgery on both my eyes. Will this last me for the rest of my life, or do the plastic lenses ‘wear out’?
Steve Lane, via email.
Cataracts are where the lens in the eye becomes cloudy, usually as a result of age — the surgery involves replacing the natural lens with a plastic version and it’s so successful and common that few of us will reach a great age without being referred for the procedure.
This revolutionary sight-restoring treatment was the result of a discovery made by a British eye surgeon, Sir Harold Ridley.
He noted that World War II pilots with eye injuries caused by shards of acrylic windscreens (shattered by enemy gunfire) didn’t experience the kind of damaging inflammatory response that splinters of stone and metal trigger.
Cataracts are where the lens in the eye becomes cloudy, usually as a result of age — the surgery involves replacing the natural lens with a plastic version and it’s so successful and common that few of us will reach a great age without being referred for the procedure
This led to the development of lenses that could be used inside the eye (intraocular) — initially the material used was the same as for aircraft windscreens.
Since the mid-1980s the lenses have been made with flexible materials, which means they can be rolled up and inserted through a small puncture, rather than having to make an incision in the eye.
The operation has now been performed for more than 70 years and it’s clear the implanted lens does not deteriorate, and lasts for the lifetime of the recipient.
However, in some patients, the original lens ‘capsule’ — the membrane that wraps around the natural lens and which is retained — itself then becomes cloudy.
In this case, vision does deteriorate but can once again be restored, using laser therapy as an outpatient procedure, which is both painless and quick.
In some patients, the original lens ‘capsule’ — the membrane that wraps around the natural lens and which is retained — itself then becomes cloudy
I recently had my first cold for about two years and it’s left me without my sense of smell and taste, and with deafness in one ear.
I had both my Covid-19 vaccines and recently had a Covid test, which was negative. Is it likely that the vaccines alter the symptoms of other common viruses? I’m 70.
David Nobbs, Norwich.
Despite your recent negative test result, my guess is that your ‘cold’ could have in fact been Covid-19.
Although you don’t mention the exact timing of the illness in relation to your test, we now know that the Omicron variant can cause cold-like symptoms, rather than the cough, headache and fever we tend to associate with earlier variants.
The vaccines you’ve had could explain why you only had mild, cold-like symptoms — i.e. a relatively mild attack.
This makes me wonder if your loss of taste and smell could be a sign of long Covid — with inflammation the likely cause of problems with the nerve cells that play a role in taste, smell and hearing.
Even symptomless Covid-19 can result in long Covid, although the problems you’re experiencing should resolve by themselves in the coming weeks or months.
However, I would also suggest it’s worth asking your GP to examine your ears — as rather than post-viral nerve damage, the deafness in one ear could be due to fluid in the middle ear, which is common following a respiratory infection.
Your GP may well refer you for audiometry, tests to check your hearing which can show whether the deafness is due to fluid build-up or nerve-related deafness caused by an inflammatory response to the virus.
If the problem is indeed fluid in the middle ear, the preferred option is usually to watch and wait, to allow this to settle naturally (which it mostly does).
Nose drops may help clear the congestion. But a small number of patients may need a minor operation, where the eardrum is perforated and the fluid ‘sucked out’ — and a drainage tube (a ‘grommet’) inserted.
Which option is appropriate depends on the severity of the problem and the patient.
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In my view: Test drivers for cannabis use
After alcohol, cannabis is the most commonly used recreational drug.
Its legal status is changing across the world, with a growing number of countries legalising it, though possession and use remain illicit in the UK.
The almost universal softening of policy has come about despite awareness that cannabis impairs reasoning and judgment, as well as affecting the way the body moves and, therefore, handles a car.
There’s now evidence that cannabis raises the risk of motor accidents and that must give pause for thought. For more than 50 years it’s been policy in the UK to test motorists for alcohol intake as a strategy to prevent accidents.
The UK authorities have at last started turning their attention to drivers who are under the influence of drugs, too.
The technology is there, in the form of DrugWipe, which tests for cannabis in the saliva and sweat (the test can be configured to detect other illegal substances).
What the public needs is the reassurance that all apprehended drivers will not only be tested for alcohol but also for drugs, in particular cannabis. Not to do so is costing us all.