As people age, the lens of the eye becomes “cloudy” or opaque and we call this a cataract. If left untreated, a cataract leads to functional blindness. Fortunately there is cataract removal, the most-performed surgery in the U.S. On average, 8,000 cataract surgeries are performed every day. Cataract removal is one of the safest procedures, and it provides a high percentage of patients with better vision than they have enjoyed for many years. Typically, it is done on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia applied by eye drops. In the hands of an experienced surgeon, the process should take about 15 minutes to complete. Many patients have improved vision immediately after surgery is completed, and are able to see clearly the day after the procedure.
Can Cataracts be Prevented?
Research indicates that long-term exposure to the UV rays in sunlight contribute to cataract formation. Wearing sunglasses when you are outdoors will minimize damage from the UV rays over time.
Signs of Cataracts
Any of these symptoms may indicate that you have cataracts, but only a trained eye doctor can diagnose cataracts:
- Blurry vision
- Glare and reduced vision in bright light
- Halos around lights when driving at night
- Double vision in one eye
- Frequent eyeglass prescription changes
- Poor vision at night
- Need for brighter light when reading
How are Cataracts Removed?
Cataract Surgery or “Phaco”
Every human eye is just a bit different in terms of size, depth, and other key features. Utilizing the latest instruments, the surgeon takes precise measurements of your eye prior to cataract surgery, and plans the procedure to produce the best possible outcome.
Cataract surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure, with local anesthesia used to numb the area. After making a tiny incision, the surgeon uses an ultrasonic instrument to emulsify the lens material (this is called Phacoemulsification or Phaco). The surgeon aspirates the material out of the eye through the tiny incision, which requires no stitches.
When the cataract is removed, your natural lens is removed as well. At this time, the surgeon will implant an Intraocular Lens or IOL to replace the lens. Before surgery, the surgeon will help you decide which type of IOL is best for you.
Monofocal IOLs are a traditional form of correction; they will allow you to see clearly up close or at a distance, but not both. These are covered by most insurance plans. Patients who choose monofocal IOLs will still need to wear glasses. Some who choose monofocals decide to have the IOL for one eye set for distance vision, and the other set for near vision, a strategy called “monovision.” The brain adapts and synthesizes the information from both eyes to provide vision at intermediate distances. Often this reduces the need for reading glasses. Individuals considering monovision may try this technique with contact lenses first to see how well they can adapt to monovision
Toric Astigmatism IOLs are a premium form of correction; they take advantage of new technology to provide crystal clear vision for those diagnosed with astigmatism. Patients who choose toric IOLs report greater satisfaction, as a high percentage of them do not need to use glasses any more.
AcrySof IQ Toric IOLs provides cataract treatment and astigmatism correction in a single procedure. Patients report crisp, clear distance vision with reduced dependence on glasses.
Multifocal/Accommodating IOLs are a premium form of correction; they take advantage of new technology to correct the full range of vision, from up close to far away. Patients who choose multifocal IOLs report greater satisfaction, as a high percentage of them do not need to use glasses any more.
As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with cataract treatment. Each eye in each situation is unique, and you should discuss the various options available to you to determine which of these options would be ideal for your situation.
Any and all surgical procedures should be taken seriously. Even after the doctor has answered any questions you might have, you should take some time and think it over before committing to surgery.