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Cataract Surgery

Cataract Surgery

What is a Cataract?

A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens. The lens focuses light rays on the retina (the layer of light-sensing cells lining the back of the eye) to produce a sharp image of what we see. When the lens becomes cloudy, light rays cannot pass through it easily and vision is blurred.

What causes a Cataract?

Cataract development is a normal process of aging, but cataracts also develop from eye injuries, radiation, certain diseases, medications or long-term exposure to sunlight. Your genes may also play a role in cataract development.

How can Cataract be treated?

A cataract may not need to be treated if your vision is only slightly blurry. Simply changing your eyeglass prescription may help to improve your vision for a while.

There are no medications, eye drops, exercises or glasses that will cause cataracts to disappear or to prevent them from forming. Surgery is the only way to remove a cataract. When you are no longer able to see well enough to do the things you like to do, cataract surgery should be considered.

In cataract surgery, the cloudy lens is removed from the eye through a surgical incision. In most cases, the natural lens is replaced with a permanent intraocular lens (IOL) implant.

Light rays entering an eye with a normal lens

Light rays entering an eye with a cataract. When a cataract forms, the lens of your eye is cloudly. Light cannot pass through it easily and your vision is blurred.

What can I expect if I decide to have cataract surgery

Before Surgery

To determine if your cataract should be removed, your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) will perform a thorough eye examination. Before surgery, your eye will be measured to determine the proper power of the intraocular lens that will be placed in your eye. Ask your ophthalmologist if you should continue taking your usual medications before surgery. You should make

The Day of Surgery

Surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis, either in a hospital or an ambulatory surgery center. You may be asked to skip breakfast, depending on the time of your surgery.

When you arrive for surgery, you will be given eye drops and perhaps a mild sedative to help make you comfortable. A local anesthetic will numb your eye. The skin around your eye will be thoroughly cleansed, and sterile coverings will be placed around your head.

Under an operating microscope, a small incision is made in the eye. During the surgery, you may see light and movement, but you will not be able to see the surgery while it is happening. In most cataract surgeries, tiny surgical instruments are used to break apart and remove the cloudy lens from the eye. The back membrane of the lens (called the posterior capsule) is usually left in place.

A plastic, acrylic or silicone intraocular lens (IOL) is implanted in the eye to replace the natural lens that was removed.

After surgery, your doctor may place a protective shield over your eye. After a short stay in the out-patient recovery area, you will be ready to go home.

During cataract surgery, tiny instruments are used to break apart and remove the cloudy lens from the eye.

In cataract surgery, the intraocular lens replaces the eye’s natural lens. 

The most common type of IOL is the monofocal lens, which provides vision at one distance. Other lenses, like multifocal and accommodative lOLs, provide both near and distance vision. Toric  lOLs correct irregularly shaped corneas (astigmatism). These lOLs are often called premium lOLs, and they typically are not covered by insurance.

In cataract surgery, the intraocular lens replaces the eye’s natural lens

Following Surgery

  • Use the eye drops as prescribed;
  •  Be careful not to rub or press on your eye;
  • Avoid strenuous activities until your ophthalmologist tell you to resume them;
  • Ask your doctor when you can begin driving;
  • Wear eyeglasses or an eye shield, as advised by your doctor.

You can continue most normal daily activities. Over-the-counter pain medication may be used, if necessary.

Is a laser used during cataract surgery?

Many surgeons make a tiny incision in the front of your eye and use a non-laser instrument to create sound waves (ultrasound) that break up the cataract. This instrument is then used to suction out the pieces.

However, another technique does use a laser, called a femtosecond laser, to perform one or more steps of the operation. Both methods are highly successful.

Sometimes the lens capsule (the part of the eye that holds the lens in place) becomes cloudy months or years after the operation. If the cloudy capsule blurs your vision, your Eye M.D. can perform a second procedure using a laser. This procedure, called a posterior capsulotomy, uses a laser to make an opening in the cloudy lens capsule, restoring normal vision.

Posterior capsulotomy: A laser is used to make an opening in the cloudy lens capsule. 

Will cataract surgery improve my vision?

The success rate of cataract surgery is excellent. Improved vision is achieved in the majority of patients if other vision problems are not present.

Complications after cataract surgery

Though they rarely occur, possible serious complications of cataract surgery are:

  • Infection;
  • Bleeding;
  • Swelling of the retina; and
  • Detachment of the retina.

Call your ophthalmologist immediately if you have any of the following symptoms after surgery:

  • Pain not relieved by non-prescription pain medication;
  • Loss of vision;
  • Nausea, vomiting or excessive coughing;
  •  Injury to the eye.

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