Cataract Surgery & Treatment

Cataracts cloud the natural lens of the eye. This happens when the proteins that make up the lens clump together and opacify. Cataracts are most common in people over the age of 60. Cataracts form over a period of many years, and doctors are able to correct this condition during a routine surgery. By undergoing cataract surgery, you can restore your vision and enhance your quality of life. The treatment that is right for you will depend on your degree of vision loss. If significant, then cataract surgery will be necessary.

When Should You See a Doctor?

The eye’s lens consists of protein and water and normally is completely transparent. Cataracts form when the protein molecules begin to clump together. This causes tiny opacities in the eye’s lens. When this happens, some of the incoming light gets blocked from reaching the retina, resulting in blurry vision, glare from sunlight during the day and glare from headlights driving at night. This clumping often occurs over time and is painless.

What Are The Symptoms of Cataracts?

Vision impairment can produce a number of side effects. As cataracts slowly worsen over time, the symptoms may not be obvious at first. In fact, you may adapt to them as your vision degrades. Because of this, you may seek treatment much later than you should. Early detection can allow us to explore your treatment options and help delay the onset of the condition. If you experience any vision impairment, it is important that you seek diagnosis. Common symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Blurred or cloudy vision

  • Muted colors

  • Lack of definition

  • Glare or the appearance of halos around light sources

  • Inhibited night vision

  • Double vision

  • A marked degradation in your visual prescription over time (for eyeglass users)

cataract surgery

Can Cataracts Be Prevented?

Wearing sunglasses or wide-brim hats while outside, for example, can help reduce exposure to UV rays, and prevent the breakdown of proteins in the cornea. Smoking or a poor diet can also contribute to the formation of a cataract. By quitting smoking and eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in vegetables and fruits, it may be possible to slow cataract development. If a cataract is present but detected early, it may be possible to improve vision through non-surgical use of corrective lenses or simply by using brighter lights while indoors.

The presence of cataracts in one or both eyes can dramatically affect vision, having a profound effect on quality of life. Driving with cataracts can be very dangerous as you maybe unable to distinguish certain colors and handle the glare of light.

How Are Cataracts Diagnosed?

A cataract exam may require a combination of tests to gauge not only if you have cataracts, but the severity of the cataracts. Doctors may use further testing beyond this to determine what type of cataract you have.

Am I a Candidate For Surgery?

Most people develop cataracts simply as a result of aging, with the majority of cases occurring in people over the age of 55. Other risk factors include eye injury or disease, a family history of cataracts, smoking or use of certain medications.

A cataract may not need to be removed right away if your lifestyle isn't significantly affected. In some cases, simply changing your eyeglass prescription may help to improve your vision. Contrary to popular belief, a cataract does not have to be "ripe" to be removed. However, once you are diagnosed with a cataract, we need to monitor your vision regularly for any changes. When a cataract causes bothersome vision problems that interfere with your daily activities, cataract surgery may be necessary.

How are Cataracts Removed?

When detected early, vision can improve with corrective lenses. If these measures do not help, doctors can recommend surgical removal of the cataract. If left untreated, the cataract may continue to grow. The doctors at SightMD perform advanced cataract surgery. Because of advanced technology, our cataract procedure takes about 10 to 20 minutes. Patients return to the comfort of their home the very same day! The two most common types of surgery are:

  • Small-incision cataract surgery (Phacoemulsification) - Small-incision cataract surgery is the most common type of cataract removal. The eye surgeon makes a very small opening on the eye, next to the outer corner. A tiny probe gives off ultrasound waves to dissolve the core, hard part of the cloudy lens. The rest of the cataract material is then removed by another probe, which provides suction through the same opening.

  • Extracapsular surgery - During extracapsular surgery, a larger opening is made on the top part of the eye to remove the hard center of the lens. The rest of the cataract material is then taken out by suction, through the large opening. This type of larger incision cataract surgery is rarely done today.

The removed lens is replaced by an intraocular lens (IOL), which is inserted through the previous opening at the end of the surgery. An IOL is a clear, artificial lens that does not need care. It becomes part of the eye. With an IOL, a person usually has better eyesight because light will be able to pass to the retina. The person does not see or feel the new lens.

types of cataract surgery

What Should I Expect After Cataract Surgery?

Within a few hours of the surgery, you will likely notice that colors are brighter, due to the removal of the clouded lens. However, your vision may be blurry during the first couple of days, and your eye may be slightly light-sensitive. Dryness, occasional itching, burning and/or red eyes are also common Most of these effects will end within a few days.

Your ophthalmologist will prescribe eye drops or medications to prevent or control inflammation, infection or high pressure of the eye. An eye shield is also recommended at bedtime to protect the operated eye.

You will also be scheduled for three or four follow-up appointments with your ophthalmologist to monitor your recovery progress. A month after the surgery, you will need an eye exam so you can be prescribed new eyeglasses if necessary.

Most patients usually go back to work with light duty two or three days after surgery. However, full recovery from cataract surgery usually takes one to two months. This includes the time needed for the eye to adjust to the replacement lens and the restoration of your vision to its highest potential.

Cataract Surgery Cost

In most cases, insurance covers cataract surgery. Medicare and most insurance companies deem cataract surgery medically necessary. This allows for most cases to cover the procedure. There are deductibles and copays in some plans. Patients are always relieved to find out that our cataract surgeons, the anesthesiologist, and the eye surgery center are all covered.

Once removed, a cataract patient must make a choice in intraocular implants. The standard intraocular lens is covered by insurance and medicare. The standard implant will allow a patient without astigmatism to see well in the distance. They may notice reading glasses are necessary for near tasks. If a patient wants less dependence on glasses, there are premium or lifestyle implants, designed to reduce or eliminate the need for glasses at far and near. These premium or lifestyle intraocular implants are not covered by insurance or Medicare and require a financial commitment from the patient.

Cataract Common FAQs

How long should I wait before I get cataract surgery?

Many people live with cataracts that do not impair their vision. We do not recommend surgery for these individuals. Generally, if your vision loss becomes significant enough to interfere with your daily activities, then we do recommend surgery.

Can cataracts return after surgery?

No, once removed a cataract cannot redevelop. However, a secondary cataract may develop around the IOL. Treatment for secondary cataracts consists of a simple, painless laser procedure. This procedure clears the fogged area around the lens.

Treatment options without surgery?

Yes, if caught early before the cataracts have significantly impaired your vision. Your eye doctor may be able to change your lens prescription to mitigate the development of cataracts. Beyond that, there is nothing that can treat a cataract without surgically removing it.

What are the potential risks and complications of cataract surgery?

Even with the many advances that have been made in the field of cataract surgery, including the advent of laser cataract treatment, it’s important to note that all surgical procedures carry some degree of risk. With that in mind, our experienced cataract surgeon, Dr. Michael Manning, has made cataract surgery a large focus of our practice. He has successfully performed this procedure on many individuals, and his skills and expertise, combined with utilization of state-of-the-art technology, allow him to minimize risks associated with this procedure.

Some of the potential complications of cataract surgery include:

  • Posterior Capsule Opacity – a condition that can impair vision after cataract surgery

  • Malpositioned/Dislocated Intraocular Lens

  • Minor Eye Inflammation

  • Retinal Detachment

  • Corneal Or Retinal Swelling

  • Ocular Hypertension – increased pressure inside the eye

  • Bleeding or Infection inside the eye leading to significant vision loss or blindness (very rare)

  • Ptosis – drooping eyelid

Contact SightMD today to schedule an appointment with one of our doctors to discuss your vision health at one of our convenient locations!

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