Cataracts affect millions of Americans each year, and as the leading cause of vision loss in people over the age of fifty, it’s no wonder new advances in cataract surgery are breaking through on a regular basis. Cataract surgery is now the most common surgery performed in the United States.
What Is a Cataract?
A cataract is the thickening and clouding of the eye’s lens. Over time, this “clouding” begins to restrict the light flow to the retina, causing eyesight to become blurred and dim, with the visual acuity similar to someone looking through a foggy window. Eventually, if no action is taken, total vision loss will occur. Though this condition is chronic and arguably inevitable, cataract surgery is a safe and effective solution, with a 98% success rate of improved vision in patients.
The eye’s lens sits inside a capsule so the surgeon first removes the front part of that capsule. He then, by various techniques has access to break down the lens and suction it out of the eye. Once the cataract is cleared an intraocular lens (IOL) is then inserted into the capsule that remains, replacing the cloudy lens, allowing light to once again safely pass through to the retina.
As with any major surgery, meticulous planning must be done beforehand. Using the 3-D image technology, your surgeon will create a detailed map of your eye to assess thickness of the cornea and depth of the anterior chamber, the fluid-filled space between the cornea and the lens. He or she will also measure pupil diameter and determine parameters for the incisions made during the procedure. On the day of surgery, you will remain awake, but your eye area will be numbed and your eye will be stabilized.
During the 15 to 20-minute procedure, your surgeon will use the information gathered from the 3D images and maps to obtain greater accuracy and precision. The procedure itself is not painful, but you may experience slight tugging or pressure. You will be sedated for relaxation and lying under bright lights so you will not feel any discomfort or witness any of the procedure.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, which means that you will be able to go home the same day. Once vitals are normal, most patients can leave within an hour after the surgery is completed. You will most likely feel slight discomfort, itching, and blurred vision for a few days while your eye heals. Resist the temptation to rub your eyes, lift heavy objects, or perform any other strenuous tasks. Follow-ups are usually scheduled the next day, 1 week and over the next month or so to ensure the eye is healing properly and no complications have arisen.
Cataract surgery varies based on specific eye-correction options and insurance plan coverage. Even if a portion of the surgery is covered, there may be additional out-of-pocket deductibles or copayments that will need to be met. With so many variables, it is best if you consult with surgery center and your insurance company to determine cost and benefits specific to you.
Risk and Complications
Most post-surgery complications are low-risk and easily treatable. If a complication does arise, it is most commonly a posterior capsule opacification (PCO), or the slight thickening of the remaining lens capsule due to a regrowth of the cells. This is not a new cataract; cataracts do not grow back. However, this thickening can cause slight blurriness and sensitivity to bright lights. This complication can be corrected with a YAG laser capsulotomy, a simple, painless procedure, where the surgeon uses a laser to make a small hole in the back of the lens capsule, allowing light to pass through to the retina. No incisions are required for this procedure.
Is Cataract Surgery Right for Me?
Begin by scheduling an appointment with our doctor. During this appointment, the doctor will assess your eye structure, the condition of your cataract, and if you have any interfering medications or health concerns. Remember, cataract surgery is currently the most common and safest surgery performed each year, but if you have additional concerns regarding the procedure, please call our office.