WHAT IS A CATARACT?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s internal focusing lens. Cataracts can materialize in many different ways. Certain types of trauma or injury to the eye can cause a cataract to form. Certain medications and certain diseases can accelerate their development. For most people, cataracts gradually develop throughout life from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light and other factor. Detectable signs and symptoms of cataracts often appear in patients in their 50s or 60s.
WHEN SHOULD I HAVE MY CATARACT REMOVED AND WHY?
In days long past, cataract surgeons recommended waiting until a cataract was mature or “ripe” before removal. This is because in the past, cataract removal surgery would almost certainly lessen one’s visual acuity and require them to wear thick cataract glasses after the procedure. Fortunately, this is no longer the case – in fact, many physicians consider cataract surgery to be a refractive procedure wherein vision should improve drastically after surgery (with the advent of multifocal and astigmatism-correcting lenses). We no longer recommend surgery when a cataract is mature. Rather, the decision for surgery is predicated on when visual difficulties begin to interfere with normal activities of daily living, like driving, reading, work, or hobbies. Recommendations for cataract surgery are made on a case-by-case basis, since different patients experience different degrees of difficulty with the symptoms.
IS SURGERY PERFORMED IN A HOSPITAL OR AS AN OUTPATIENT?
With SoCal Eye, cataract surgery is performed in the hospital or as an outpatient in our own Ambulatory Surgery Center (ASC). Our expert surgicenter nursing staff specialize in eye surgery. It is their primary goal to provide each patient exceptional care, and to maximize comfort throughout the entire surgery experience.
HOW LONG DOES THE SURGERY TAKE?
The procedure itself takes about ten minutes. Most people are in the surgery center for about two hours, including preoperative and postoperative time.
IS CATARACT SURGERY UNCOMFORTABLE?
Most people say that there is no pain during or after cataract surgery. Occasionally, patients experience a scratchy sensation (like an eyelash in the eye) and mild soreness for about 24 hours after the procedure. If necessary, they take aspirin, Advil (ibuprofen), or Tylenol (acetaminophen).
HOW IS THE CATARACT REMOVED?
The cataract is removed in a 10-minute procedure where a small opening (less than 1/8 inch) is made painlessly on the side of the eye (the cornea), allowing the surgeon to dissolve the lens of the eye and remove it in tiny pieces. An artificial lens implant made of silicone or plastic is folded into a small package, then inserted into the eye and unfolded in the proper position. The new lens remains permanently in this position—it will never need maintenance or replacement. The new lens can be selected to minimize the need for glasses following surgery.
AFTER THE SURGERY, WILL MY CATARACT COME BACK?
After cataract surgery, it is impossible for a cataract to come back because the lens of the eye, which was the cataract, has been removed. It is possible, however, for a cloudy film to grow on the lens capsule membrane that is located behind the lens implant. Treatment of this film, sometimes called a “secondary cataract,” is done with a laser in a simple in-office procedure that only takes a couple of minutes. The eye is not even patched, and patients may drive themselves home.
WILL I NEED GLASSES AFTER SURGERY?
With newer technologies available at our center (like focusing implants and astigmatism correction), many patients are able to drive a car and read newsprint without glasses. Some of these options may not be covered by Medicare or private insurance. SoCal Eye staff is happy to answer questions about these technologies during a visit to our office.
WHAT RESTRICTIONS WILL I HAVE AFTER CATARACT SURGERY?
For the first 24 hours after surgery, an eye patch is kept over the healing eye and the effects of anesthesia will be wearing off. During this time, we recommend restful activity. Eating, watching television, reading, and walking around the house are allowed. After the eye patch is removed, patients can begin administering their postoperative eye drops. Aside from not rubbing the operative eye, there are minimal restrictions after surgery. Our doctors and counselors will fully discuss these with you before surgery. For more information about post-surgery restrictions, please contact us.
WHAT ARE THE RISKS OF SURGERY?
While cataract surgery is relatively safe, there are risks with every kind of surgery; cataract surgery is no exception. The risk of severe complications, such as infection or retinal detachment, is about 1 in 1000. Less severe complications can include irritation or prolonged recovery time with delayed visual improvement. This is not a complete list of risks that occur with surgery, and individual patients may have other risks based on their co-existing medical or eye conditions. SoCal Eye doctors have extensive experience performing cataract surgery in unusual circumstances and can fully discuss these risks with you. Contact either your optometrist or our office to schedule a consultation.