09 Apr Eye Surgery for Cataract
Everyone blessed with a long life eventually develops a cataract and needs to have cataract eye surgery to maintain good vision. Eye surgery for cataract is the most commonly performed surgery in the world and in countries where cataract eye surgery is not readily available; cataracts are the leading cause of treatable blindness.
What is a Cataract?
The natural lens in your eye is clear when you were first born. Over the course of years, general aging and exposure to the sun causes your lens to turn yellow and cloudy. When this happens, your lens becomes a cataract.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Yellow, cloudy cataracts blur vision and scatter light. The first symptom most notice is glare from oncoming headlights with night driving. When the level of glare or blur starts to affect your life, most decide it is time for cataract eye surgery.
The cataract eye surgery procedure involves removing the cloudy cataracts and replacing them with a small plastic intraocular lens.
Small incisions are made in the cornea. There is a thin capsule that surrounds the cataract lens. A small circular opening called a capsulorhexis is made in the front part of the capsule. This is one of the more challenging parts of cataract eye surgery.
The opening in the capsule grants access the actual cataract. Instruments are used to break cataracts into small pieces that are vacuumed out with an oscillating tip called a “phaco.”
The intraocular lens is usually placed right inside the capsule where the cataract was just removed. The capsule shrink wraps around the intraocular lens and locks it in place.
Laser Cataract Removal
Many patients prefer laser eye surgery for cataract removal because it is more precise. In laser cataract removal, the eye is imaged by a high definition scanner that presents the anatomy of the eye on a large screen. The surgeon then designs the incisions, the capsulorhexis, the breaking up of the cataracts, and incisions to round the cornea and decrease astigmatism right on the screen. When the surgeon engages the foot pedal, a femtosecond laser delivers the plan with superhuman precision.
The intraocular lenses come in a variety of powers. Some give distance vision but require that you use reading glasses while others correct astigmatism or give both distance and near vision without glasses. Your eye surgeon will discuss which of these intraocular lenses is best for your lifestyle. Insurance companies cover some of these lens options while others require additional out of pocket expenses.
If your cataracts advance to the point the repair is considered “medically necessary” then the medical part of the surgery is generally covered by your medical insurance. The cataract surgery done manually with a standard distance lens is the medical part of the surgery. If you elect to have an advanced technology intraocular lens or have laser cataract surgery, then you would bear additional out of pocket eye surgery for cataract costs.
Most patients find their eye surgery for cataract recovery to be uneventful with minimal discomfort. This is because the incisions are so small that they tend to heal quickly. If you experience greater discomfort than this, it is wise to contact your eye doctor to make sure everything is OK.
You will wear an eye patch for the first few hours after cataract surgery.
The vision is usually quite blurry the day of cataract surgery, especially just after removing the patch. If there is not much swelling in your cornea, then the vision is often pretty good by the next morning. If there is swelling, it is like having a windshield that needs to defrost. Your body will remove the swelling over time and the vision improves as this happens.
Some patients are sensitive to light for the first few weeks after their cataract eye surgery. We provide wrap-around sunglasses just in case you need them during this healing phase.
Most can return to exercise and normal activities within a few days. At your one-day post operative exam, your eye doctor will make sure that your eye is structurally strong enough for you to resume activity. If you have specific questions about your exercise or activity level, it is wise to ask the doctor at that visit. That is also a good time to ask your doctor when it could be wise to resume driving after eye surgery for cataract.
I ask my patients to avoid swimming, hot tubing and activities where they could get poked in the eye the first week of their recovery. I have them wear an eye shield to be the first week to protect the healing eye while they sleep.
You will take a series of eye drops for the first month or so after your eye cataract surgery. These are to decrease the chances of infection and modulate the amount of inflammation as you heal.
If I can answer any other questions about your eye cataract surgery, please schedule a time to meet with me or post a comment below.