Cataract surgery is a common and safe surgical procedure used to treat cataracts, a condition that causes clouding of the eye’s natural lens, leading to vision loss. During cataract surgery, the clouded lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens, called an intraocular lens (IOL). This surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis and usually takes less than an hour.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Cataracts are a natural part of the aging process and can occur in one or both eyes. Common symptoms of cataracts include:
- Blurred or hazy vision
- Difficulty seeing at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Need for brighter light for reading and other activities
- Double vision in one eye
- Frequent changes in eyeglass prescription
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see an eye doctor for an evaluation.
Types of Cataract Surgery
There are two main types of cataract surgery: phacoemulsification and extracapsular cataract extraction.
Phacoemulsification is the most common type of cataract surgery and involves making a small incision in the eye through which a tiny ultrasound probe is inserted. The probe breaks up the cloudy lens into small pieces, which are then removed from the eye. An IOL is then inserted through the same incision and positioned in the eye.
Extracapsular cataract extraction involves making a larger incision in the eye and removing the cloudy lens in one piece. This technique is less commonly used today, but may be necessary in certain cases where phacoemulsification is not feasible.
Both types of cataract surgery are generally safe and effective, and the specific type of surgery used will depend on the individual patient’s needs and the surgeon’s recommendation.
Before Cataract Surgery
Before undergoing cataract surgery, patients will typically have a comprehensive eye exam to determine the extent of the cataract and to measure the eye for the appropriate IOL. The eye doctor will also evaluate the patient’s overall health and any medications they are taking to ensure that they are healthy enough for surgery.
Patients will also receive instructions on how to prepare for surgery, including avoiding food and drink for a period of time prior to surgery, and arranging for transportation to and from the surgical facility.
During Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is typically performed under local anesthesia, which numbs the eye and surrounding area. The patient is usually awake during the procedure but may be given a sedative to help them relax.
During phacoemulsification surgery, the surgeon will make a small incision in the eye and use the ultrasound probe to break up the cloudy lens. The lens fragments are then removed from the eye using a small suction device. Once the lens is removed, an IOL is inserted through the same incision and positioned in the eye.
During extracapsular cataract extraction surgery, the surgeon will make a larger incision in the eye and remove the cloudy lens in one piece. An IOL is then inserted through the same incision and positioned in the eye.
After Cataract Surgery
After surgery, patients will be monitored for a short period of time in the recovery area before being discharged. Patients will need to arrange for transportation home as they will not be able to drive themselves.
Patients will also receive instructions on how to care for their eyes after surgery, including using eye drops to prevent infection and inflammation, and avoiding activities that could put pressure on the eye. It is important for patients to follow these instructions carefully to ensure proper healing and minimize the risk of complications.
Most patients experience significant improvement in their vision within a few days to a week after surgery, and the full healing.