What is a Cataract?

On the inside of your eye is a clear lens that helps focus light onto your retina. As we age, this lens starts to become more cloudy and even turns yellowish in color. When this happens, light is scattered as it enters the eye and cannot be sharply focused. This makes images appear blurry. This process can be gradual, so it may take years to notice a decrease in one's vision. Other times it may appear to change quite rapidly. Glasses may help some to sharpen vision in the early stages of a cataract. However, as the lens becomes more cloudy, glasses may not correct your vision enough. This is when surgery may be suggested.

When should cataracts be removed?

It is important to mention that everyone gets some degree of cataracts as they get older. Before doctors would perform cataract surgery in the past, they would wait until a cataract was “ripe." Essentially this meant the cataract was so cloudy the person had little if any vision out of the eye. However, with advances in surgical techniques, surgery is considered when a cataract starts to interfere with the things you like or have to do. These could be things like reading, sewing or other close work. Sometimes people complain of difficulty in situations where there is glare (bright sunlight or driving at night). If these things make it difficult for you to do the things you want to, it may be time to consider surgery.

How are cataracts treated?

Cataracts cannot be treated with any form of medication. The only treatment option is surgery. Cataract surgery is done as outpatient procedure at The Surgicare Surgery Center which is located near our office. You are typically at the surgery center for two hours total. The surgery itself takes under ten minutes to perform.

During surgery, the cloudy lens is removed and replaced with an artificial intraocular lens (IOL). Cataract surgery has undergone many advances in the past few years which has made it a very safe and reliable procedure.

During the surgery, the doctor uses a microscope and small instruments to make a small incision into your eye. The cataract is broken apart with sound waves (ultrasound) and removed from the eye. This process is called phacoemulsification. The natural membrane, or capsule, that held your lens is left in place. Once the cataract is removed, the new lens (IOL) is slipped through the incision and positioned within the capsule.

The implant actually fold up, which allows it to be placed through the small incision. It unfolds into place when in the eye. With the new lens (IOL) inserted, the doctor is ready to close the incision. The incision is self-sealing and requires no stitches. These newer techniques mean a quicker recovery for you.

There are typically few, if any, restrictions following surgery. It is important not to rub or get water in your eye for approximately a week after surgery.

What about glasses after surgery?

The new lens (IOL) works the same way as your natural lens did to focus light. This allows you to see sharp images and colors more clearly. You should notice some improvement in your vision soon after surgery. For some, the improvement is rapid and dramatic. For others, improvement may take a few days. You may feel your vision is better than it’s been in years. However, you may need glasses to fine tune your vision for distance, near, or both. People who have an astigmatism have the option to choose a Toric IOL.

An astigmatism is an optical defect on the surface of your cornea (clear front surface of your eye). This astigmatism causes blurred vision that can be corrected after cataract surgery with the use of glasses or contact lenses. The toric intraocular lens is designed to not only replace your natural lens during cataract surgery but also to lessen some of the effects of the astigmatism on your vision. This may increase the likelihood that you can function without glasses after surgery.

What about secondary cataracts?

Sometimes after cataract surgery, the vision may become blurry again. This is not caused by another cataract, but by the clouding of the natural membrane(capsule) that now hold your new lens (IOL). This can happen months or even years after your cataract surgery. This is easily treated in our office with a laser procedure called a YAG Capsulotomy that takes just a few minutes. This creates a small opening in the capsule which lets light pass clearly into the eye again. That appointment is about an hour to an hour and a half and some patients are asked to return two weeks later for a final check.

From the American Academy of Ophthalmology