ABOUT CATARACT SURGERY

Dr. August Pasquale, M.D.
Dr. Pasquale

Cataract is a clouding of the eye's lens. When we look at something, light rays travel into our eye through the pupil and are focused through the lens onto the retina, a layer of light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye. The lens must be clear in order to focus light properly onto the retina. If the lens has become cloudy, this is called a cataract.

If your vision has become blurry, cloudy or dim, or things you see are not as bright or colorful as they used to be, a cataract may have developed in one or both of your eyes. Many people say that their vision with cataracts is similar to the effect of looking through a dirty car windshield.

As a cataract slowly begins to develop, you may not notice any changes in your vision at first.  But as the cataract progresses, you may begin to find that it interferes with your daily activities.  Performing a complete eye exam, your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) can tell you whether cataract or another problem is the cause of your vision loss.

Mature CataractWhile cataracts are one of the most common causes of vision loss, especially as we age, they are treatable with cataract surgery. Since most cataracts are part of the normal aging process, they cannot be reversed.  There are no medications or eye drops that will make cataracts go away—surgery is the only treatment.

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, your ophthalmologist needs to monitor your vision regularly for any changes.

About Cataract Surgery

The cataract surgery procedure

The most common procedure used for removing cataracts is called phacoemulsification.   A small incision is made in the side of the cornea (the front part of your eye), where your Eye M.D. inserts a tiny instrument that uses high-frequency ultrasound to break up the center of the cloudy lens and carefully suction it out.

After the cloudy lens has been removed, the surgeon will replace it with an intraocular lens (IOL) implant made of plastic, silicone or acrylic. This new, clear lens allows light to pass through and focus properly on the retina. The IOL becomes a permanent part of your eye. In most cases, the IOL is inserted behind the iris, the colored part of your eye, and is called a posterior chamber lens. Sometimes, the IOL must be placed in front of the iris. This is called an anterior chamber lens. When the IOL is in place, the surgeon closes the incision. Stitches may or may not be used. After the surgery, your Eye M.D. usually places a protective shield over your eye.

Cataract surgery recovery

You will spend a short period of time resting in the outpatient recovery area before you are ready to go home. You will need to have someone drive you home.

Following your surgery, it is very important to put in the eye drops exactly as prescribed by your ophthalmologist to promote healing. You will also need to take care to protect your eye by wearing the eye shield whenever you sleep, and by wearing special wraparound sunglasses in bright light. Be sure not to rub your eye.

During the first week of your recovery, you must avoid strenuous activity such as exercise or bending and heavy lifting (including anything over 25 pounds). You will also need to avoid getting any water, dirt or dust in your eye, which can lead to infection.

You may have some blurry vision a few days to weeks after the surgical procedure. If you experience any pain or loss of vision, be sure to call your ophthalmologist.

Source: American Academy of Ophthalmology, www.geteyesmart.com