Cataract surgery is one of the most routine and commonly performed operations done in the United States. It is a very effective treatment of a very common age-related ocular condition. As the average age of the American population continues to increase, cataract surgeries will likely become even more prevalent. Here’s a guide of important information to consider if you or a loved one have recently been diagnosed with cataracts.
Back to the Basics: What are Cataracts?
Cataracts are the term given to a cloudy crystalline lenses inside the eye. These cloudy lenses form due to normal age-related changes that occur as proteins, water, and free radicals slowly accumulate in the crystalline lens inside the eye. Overtime, as the lens becomes more and more cloudy, and cataracts are formed. Overtime, cataracts can begin to affect visual acuity and color perception, and may contribute to problems with glare or haloes around lights. Cataract surgery becomes an option with the cataracts are significant enough to negatively affect vision or activities of daily life. Your optometrist will monitor your cataracts, and make a suggestion regarding when it is time to have the cataracts removed.
How Does Cataract Extraction Work?
During cataract surgery, an ophthalmologist who is trained in ocular surgery will perform a procedure to remove the natural crystalline lens that has become cloudy due to a cataract. The surgeon will then replace the natural lens with a clear artificial one. This new artificial lens is completely biocompatible and rests in the same capsule as the original lens. The optical power and design of the new artificial lens can be handpicked to meet specific visual needs, and many people do not require full-time glasses following cataract surgery.
What to Expect for Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery is a very routine outpatient procedure. If you decide to undergo cataract surgery, your doctor will prescribe a few medicated eye drops that you will begin to take a few days before surgery. On the day of the procedure, you can expect to be at the surgical center for 4-6 hours, though the procedure itself typically takes around 30 minutes. Surgeons typically utilize local anesthesia, meaning you do not have to be put to sleep in order to receive the surgery. Following the surgery, you will be instructed with postoperative care, including medications and a follow-up schedule. You will be required to have someone drive you to and from the surgical center on the day of the procedure as your vision may be affected. Following surgery, you can expect to have a one-day, one-week, and one-month follow up appointment with either the surgeon or your primary eye care provider in order to determine proper healing and recovery. Work can be resumed shortly after the surgery depending on how the healing process is going, though heavy lifting and strenuous activity should be avoided for the first month.
Possible Complications of Cataract Surgery
As previously mentioned, cataract surgery is thought to be a very safe procedure, though a few risks exist. The most serious risk would be a bacterial infection following surgery, though this is a very rare occurrence. More commonly, risks include postoperative inflammation, residual refractive error, or the development of a “secondary cataract” in which cells from the original lens capsule migrate and cover the new artificial lens. Your primary eye care provider will closely monitor you and treat any complications if they arise.