Cataract surgery is a procedure performed to improve vision by replacing the lens of an eye clouded by a cataract. Cataracts affect millions of people in the United States each year. Most cataracts are the result of aging, though some form as a result of genetic factors or because of disease or injury.
Candidates for Cataract Surgery
Commonly, the development of cataracts through aging is a gradual process. Patients may not notice early changes in vision and may only become aware of the condition when it is more advanced. Ophthalmologists, however, can detect cataracts by finding the lens opaque upon medical examination. Only medical professionals can rule out other causes for visual disturbance, such as glaucoma or macular degeneration. Patients who become aware of visual difficulties related to cataracts usually experience clouded, blurred or dim vision especially at night.
Benefits of Cataract Surgery
The benefits of cataract surgery are many and have been proven to greatly enhance the quality of life. Patients who have successful cataract surgery may experience several advantages.
Improved Quality of Vision
Patients experience improved vision after cataract surgery, reporting sharper images and brighter colors, They have less difficulty with many routine tasks, particularly night driving.
Decreased Dependency on Eyeglasses
Many people who have cataract surgery find that they no longer need to wear glasses or that their dependency on glasses is greatly reduced.
Greater Sense of Self-confidence
Cataract surgery most often results in an increased sense of independence, regardless of the age of the patient. Marked improvements have been recorded even in patients with dementia or extreme hearing impairment.
Research indicates that the improved vision provided by cataract surgery reduces the possibility of falls, making exercise, sports and hobbies more possible. This results in improved physical health, sociability and longer life expectancy.
The Cataract Surgery Procedure
After the pupil is dilated and the area in and around the eye is numbed with anesthesia, a tiny incision is made to insert an ultrasonic probe. The probe emulsifies, or breaks up, the cloudy lens into tiny pieces which are suctioned out of the eye. Once the cloudy lens has been removed, a new artificial lens is implanted. The new lens, known as an intraocular lens or IOL, is often inserted through the original incision. Surgery usually takes only a few minutes to perform, is usually performed outpatient and is relatively painless. A very high percentage of patients demonstrate improved vision after the procedure.
LASER ASSISTED CATARACT SURGERY (LACS)
In this state-of-the-art technique, a customized, gentle and precise laser is used to perform some of the steps of cataract surgery prior to going into the operating room. It provides more accurate incisions, more accurate opening of the cataract, softening of the cataract making it easier to remove and astigmatism reduction through corneal relaxing incisions. In total, this can afford a more custom cataract surgery to the patient with the possiblity of even better vision.
Risks of Cataract Surgery
While cataract surgery is a common procedure and is considered quite safe, any surgery poses risks to the patient. In the case of cataract surgery, there is a slightly increased risk of retinal detachment, a painless but dangerous condition. Other risks of cataract surgery may include bleeding or infection.
Recovery from Cataract Surgery
After the operation, the eye is usually covered with a clear plastic shield. The eye can be used for seeing right away. Itching and mild discomfort after cataract surgery are normal and usually disappear within a few days.
For a few weeks after surgery, the patient uses prescribed eye drops to assist in the healing process and to decrease the risk of infection. Patients should refrain from rubbing the eyes, bending and heavy lifting for several days. In most cases, complete healing takes place within four weeks.