What is a Cataract?

With the formation of a cataract, activities like reading, bowling, or driving can be difficult. Fortunately, vision can be restored quickly, allowing the patient to return home within a few hours. With new advances in cataract surgery, vision improvement begins almost immediately, and an eye patch isn’t even needed.

So What is a Cataract?
Cataract is the clouding of the lens of the eye. (See above animation) Normally, light passes through the clear lens and is focused onto the Retina. However, the natural aging process can cause the lens to become cloudy. The Cataract or cloudy lens blocks the passage of light through the eye and causes distorted or blurred vision, glare, or difficulty seeing in poor lighting conditions.

Cataract surgery is the most common operation in the world. In the United States, more than 2.7 million procedures are performed annually. (National Institutes of Health)

There are 20.5 million cases of early cataracts among Americans aged 40 and older, and 50 percent of people older than 65 have developed significant cataracts. (National Institutes of Health)

Is Cataract Surgery right for me?
Vision  Loss  Can  be  Prevented!   Loss of eye sight from cataracts is usually preventable.

With state-of-the-art technology, your doctor can safely remove cataracts and allow patients to enjoy better vision and resume the quality of life they enjoyed before cataracts developed.

Should you consider cataract surgery? To decide whether or not cataract surgery is right for you, a complete and thorough eye examination is necessary. There are several indications for cataract surgery, but rarely will a cataract need to be removed immediately or as an emergency. Because the procedure is elective, most cataract surgery can be scheduled at your convenience.

A few common reasons an individual chooses cataract surgery are:
Decreased vision – such as difficulty seeing street signs, or problems reading fine print.
Foggy vision – vision appears to have a film or cloud over it.
Halos around lights – from oncoming automobile headlights, for example.
Difficulty driving at night – poor night vision or automobile headlights seem excessively bright.
Glare – difficulty seeing in brightly lit conditions such as with oncoming headlights, low sun angles, or on foggy/cloudy days.
Difficulty reading – or needing more light to see print
Poor ability to perform daily tasks – problems such as reading medication instructions, failure to pass a driver’s visual examination, problems seeing to play cards, bowl or play golf are common.

After consultation with your doctor, you may decide that you wish to have cataract surgery. Before you make this decision, we will inform you about the health of your eyes, any risks and potential complications of surgery, and the alternatives, as well as discuss the benefits for you.

You also need to know what you can reasonably expect for visual improvement following the procedure. You will be fully informed about the surgery and its attendant risks and benefits. Only then can you make an informed decision to proceed.

The Cataract Procedure

Cataract surgery is performed on an out-patient basis. You will not need to be hospitalized or put to sleep for your doctor to perform your surgery. The procedure normally takes less than 30 minutes and you can return home shortly after your procedure. Most people will enjoy improved vision by the day after surgery or within a few days following the procedure.

Your doctor will first administer a light sedative which will relax your nerves and keep you comfortable during the procedure. Anesthetic eye drops will be used to completely numb the eye. Your doctor will use the latest technology for cataract removal. The entire procedure is typically performed through an incision that is smaller than 1/8 of an inch and does not require stitches to heal.

Once the cataract is removed, an intra-ocular lens (IOL) is placed where the cataract lens was removed, to restore your sight. Most patients will not require an eye patch and will not have significant discomfort.

Most patients can return to their normal daily routines, including reading, driving, and exercise soon after surgery.

What should I expect before surgery?
Initial Visit
Before deciding to have Cataract surgery, you will need an initial examination to make sure your eyes are suitable for surgery. Your doctor will take a complete history about your medical and eye health and perform a thorough examination of both eyes.

If you wear contact lenses, your doctor may ask you to stop wearing them before your initial examination (from the day of to a few weeks before), so that your refraction (measure of how much your eye bends light) and central keratometry readings (measure of how much the cornea curves) are more accurate.

At this time, your doctor will ask you if you:

Take any medications, including over-the-counter medications, vitamins and other supplements
Have any allergies
Have had any eye conditions
Have undergone any previous eye surgery
Have any medical conditions.

Deciding to have Surgery
To help you decide whether Cataract surgery is right for you, your doctor and you will thoroughly discuss your expectations and whether there are elements of your medical history, eye history, or eye examination that might increase your risk or prevent you from having the outcome you expect. Your doctor will discover and then conclude:

Whether you are a good candidate,
What are the risks, benefits and alternatives of the surgery
What you should expect before, during and after surgery
What your responsibilities will be before, during and after surgery.

Before your surgery, your doctor will measure the eye and calculate the power of lens that you will need. You must not eat or drink after midnight on the day of surgery.

Before your surgery, your doctor may ask you to temporarily stop taking certain medications that increase the risk of bleeding during surgery. How long before surgery you may need to stop these medications depends upon which medications you are using and the conditions they are treating. You and your doctor may need to discuss stopping certain medications with the doctor who prescribed them, since you may need some of these medications to prevent life-threatening events. For example, you may need medications that stop blood clotting to keep from having a stroke.

What should I expect during surgery?
The surgery usually lasts less than 30 minutes and is generally painless. Many people choose to stay awake during surgery, while others may need to be put to sleep for a short time. If you are awake, you will have an anesthetic to numb the nerves in and around your eye. You will not have to worry about holding your eye open because an instrument known as a lid speculum will hold your lids open. You will likely see light and movement during surgery, but the eye usually is not uncomfortable.

Your doctor will first administer a comfortable topical anesthetic which will completely numb the eye. Next a small incision is created, then an ultrasonic probe is used to shatter and remove the cataract.

Once the cataract is removed, your new intra-ocular lens (IOL) is introduced into the eye. The incision is then sealed and the procedure is complete.

With advanced cataract surgery, most patients return to their daily routines soon after surgery. Cataract surgery’s permanent results often allow patients to enjoy better vision than they had before cataracts developed.

What should I expect after surgery?
After the surgery is over, you may be brought to a recovery room for a couple of hours before you will be allowed to go home. To avoid the possibility of complications, it is important to adhere to the following post-operative guidelines:
Although patients are advised to eat only a light meal following surgery, a normal diet may be resumed the day after surgery.