Last time I talked about what a cataract is, and how it forms. This post will discuss the process of cataract extraction(surgery).
Cataract surgery is currently the most common surgery performed in the United States, and it boasts one of the lowest complication rates of any surgery currently performed.
Cataract surgery involves the removal of the crystalline lens inside the eye (where the cataract has formed). A lens implant in then inserted in its place. In many cases, this lens implant contains your glasses prescription, so you may be less dependent on glasses following cataract surgery.
Older people who remember their own parents or grandparents having cataract surgery are sometimes apprehensive about having it themselves. However, those old procedures they may remember have given way to new state of the art cataract surgeries that involve little recovery time and much better results. Today, cataract surgery is a routine and relatively painless procedure.
Cataract surgery is generally performed on an outpatient basis, without the need for hospitalization or general anesthesia. While you do not need to be put to sleep for the procedure, the surgeon may give you a light sedative to relax your nerves and keep you comfortable. The procedure typically takes 15-30 minutes, and is performed through an incision smaller than 1/8 inch!
BEFORE THE SURGERY:
Following the initial diagnosis and discussion of your cataracts, a consultation will be scheduled with the surgeon to confirm the feasibility and appropriateness of cataract surgery for you. Measurements will be taken to determine the best size and power lens implant for your case. If you wear contact lenses, you may be asked to discontinue wearing them for a few weeks, in order to ensure the accuracy of these measurements.
DURING THE SURGERY:
Anesthetic eye drops are used to completely numb the eye during the procedure, and a small speculum is inserted to help keep the eye open. The surgeon then makes a tiny incision through which he will perform the procedure. Using an ultrasonic probe, he breaks up and removes the lens containing the cataract, and replaces it with a clear intra-ocular lens (IOL) implant. The incision is then sealed (without the need for stitches) and the procedure is complete.
AFTER THE SURGERY:
Most people enjoy improvement in vision the next day or within just a few days, and most patients can return to their daily routine the next day! Following the surgery, you will have a few restrictions to you activity for a short time, and you will need to comply with a schedule of topical eye drops and postoperative appointments for a period of a few weeks.
While one goal of this procedure is to reduce the dependence on glasses or contact lenses, many people still require some compensation at least at some distance(s). Cataract surgery will not prevent or eliminate the need for reading glasses, and in some cases it may "unmask" the need for them.
For the most part, cataract surgery makes colors more vibrant and vision clearer, and allows patients to resume a quality of life they enjoyed before cataracts limited them.