HUNDREDS of patients are having their sight saved every year thanks to cataract operations at Sunderland Eye Infirmary.
Most of those receiving treatment are over the age of 70, however, people can develop the condition earlier.
Surgeons at Sunderland Royal Hospital invited the Echo into an operation to see how the procedure is helping change lives.
Dad Peter Lee underwent eye surgery amid fears he would fail a work medical.
The 53-year-old HGV driver had cataracts in both eyes removed after his sight worsened – and says there is nothing to fear for those in urgent need of the operation.
Peter had the procedures at Sunderland Eye Infirmary (SEI) as fears grew that he would fail his next medical for his driving job with supermarket chain Asda.
The father-of-three was totally at ease during the surgery on his left eye, after having a cataract removed from his right eye just weeks ago.
If the sight of small metal tools being poked into a person’s eye looks painful on film, it is anything but for the patient.
“I’d say it’s a two out of 10 in terms of being painful,” said Black Cats fan Peter.
“The staff here are brilliant. They make you feel so relaxed.”
The procedure to remove the cataract, carried out by opthalmologist Peter Phelan, saw the eye numbed with a saline solution.
A cataract is a clouding that can develop in the lens of the eye, making a person’s vision worse.
If untreated it can potentially blind the sufferer.
Dianne Hurcombe, department manager at SEI, who has 23 years’ experience at the facility, said: “It’s one of the most common surgical procedures to remove a cataract but it’s also a very delicate procedure.
“We need to put numbing drops into the eyes before it begins.
A tiny three millimetre incision is made into the eye, so that work can begin on removing the cataract before an intraocular lens can be put in place.
“The incision self-heals, so we don’t need to do much more once it is in place,” added Dianne.
After the successful op, Peter, who is dad to Caroline, Daniel and Jessica, said people needing the type of surgery he had need not be scared.
“It’s like someone has adjusted the setting on my television.
“I was that comfortable I wanted to shut my eye and go to sleep.
“You just feel so relaxed when you’re getting it done.
“You know it isn’t going to hurt. I couldn’t feel a thing.
“My next medical is in two years’ time and I’ve really struggled with my eyesight, but now I know I’ll be OK.”
Eighteen consultants currently work at the Queen Alexandra Road site, which also houses and accident and emergency department.