Hearing you need cataract surgery might cause you to feel anxious. Fear of the unknown is common and can get the best of us sometimes. Your ophthalmologist will provide you with information regarding the surgery and will answer any questions you might have.
Anticipating clearer vision after the procedure is something to look forward to especially, if your cataracts have affected your life style. If you are nervous, discussing your cataract surgery options with your doctor can help you determine what you need to do.
What you need to know about cataract surgery, to expect and a recovery summary is offered below. Make sure to write down any questions you have and give them to your doctor.
Prior to the Procedure
Before you start preparing for cataract surgery, your doctor will perform non-invasive advanced imaging about a week or so before your surgery. These tests are to determine the dimensions of your eye for selection of your replacement lens.
All patients who get cataract surgery receive an artificial intraocular lens or IOL. The ultimate goal is improved vision due to the lenses’ ability to focus light on the retina of your eye. You won’t be able to see or feel this lens and will become part of your eye.
Intraocular lenses (IOL) are available in a wide variety. Some IOLs even block ultraviolet light. Before the surgery, you and your ophthalmologist will discuss the different types of lenses and determine which one fits your life style.
*Premium lenses are not covered by insurance providers.
IOLs are made from different materials. The material they are made of will determine how they are placed in your eye. They might be implanted through an incision that must be closed with few stitches if their material is rigid.
On the other hand, many IOLs are flexible, enabling surgeons to make a smaller incision requiring fewer stitches or none. The surgeon folds this type of lens. Then it is inserted into the space previously occupied by the natural lens. After being inserted into the eye, the IOL is allowed to unfold, at which point it fills the previously vacant capsule.
The following are examples of the various types of lenses that are available:
- Monofocal with a fixed focus: This lens type focuses on long-range vision. Reading glasses are virtually always required for the activity of reading.
- Monofocal with an accommodating focus: Although these lenses only have a single strength of focusing, they can respond to the movements of the eye muscles and shift their focus to near or far objects.
- Multifocal: These lenses are comparable to those in glasses with progressive or bifocal lenses. Because the lens has multiple zones, it can focus on objects at various distances.
- A significant amount of astigmatism may require using a toric lens for your vision to be properly corrected. This is similar to toric contact lens wearers’ needs.
Talk to your eye surgeon about the advantages, disadvantages and if you are a candidate. of the various IOL options available. This will allow you to make an informed decision about which lens is right for you.
During the Procedure
The surgical removal of cataracts takes approximately one hour or less. It is performed as an outpatient procedure most of the time. Talk to your doctor about this as you will need someone to drive you home after the surgery.
To enlarge your pupil, your doctor will give you eye drops. You will also receive local anesthetics to numb the area. And, a sedative may also be given to help you relax. During surgery, you may be awake but feel groggy if you did receive a sedative.
The affected lens is removed during surgery, and an artificial lens that is crystal clear is typically implanted in its place. However, in certain instances, a cataract can be removed surgically without the implantation of an artificial lens.
Surgical procedures that can be used to remove cataracts:
In order to remove the lens, an ultrasound probe will be used to break it up. Your doctor will make a small incision in the clear part of the front of your eye, then insert a needle-like probe into the area of the lens substance that has a cataract.
After the cataract is broken up, your surgeon will use the probe to suction out the fragments of the cataract. The very back of your lens, also known as the lens capsule, is left alone so it can act as a resting place for the artificial lens. At the conclusion of the procedure, a very small incision may be made in your cornea, and stitches may be required to close it.
Creating a small incision inside the eye and removing the lens in one piece are both steps in the procedure. Sometimes you will need a larger incision. Your surgeon will remove your cataract through this larger incision to remove the lens as well as the cloudy part that makes up the cataract. Again, the back part of your natural lens is left in its natural position to support the artificial lens.
After the Procedure
You can anticipate that your vision will improve just a few days after cataract surgery. During the time that your eye is healing and adjusting. You may notice that your vision is hazy, this is normal and there is no need to worry. After surgery, it is common to experience some itching as well as mild discomfort for the first couple of days. Even though it might be difficult, try not to rub or touch your eye during this time.
As a result of your surgery, you will be looking through a new clear lens, which may cause colors to appear more vividly. Before surgery, a cataract will typically have a yellow or brown tint, which will dull the appearance of colors.
You should make an appointment to see your eye doctor the day after surgery. Follow-up appointments will also be made the following week, and then once more after approximately one month.
On the day of surgery, your physician might ask you to wear an eye patch or a protective shield over your eye(s) while you sleep and recover. They may also recommend you to wear the protective shield for a few additional days for protection again while you sleep and recover.
In order to prevent infection, decrease inflammation, and maintain proper control of eye pressure, your doctor will prescribe eye drops. When necessary, these medications can be injected directly into the eye during the surgical procedure.
It is expected that most of the discomfort will go away after a few days. In most cases, complete recovery takes place in the span of eight weeks. Talk to your ophthalmologist if any of the following occur:
- Vision loss
- Continued pain despite pain medication
- An intensified redness of the eyes
- Eyelid swelling
After cataract surgery, some patients still require the use of corrective eyewear depending on the lens they will choose. When your eyes have recovered to the point where you can get a final prescription for eyeglasses, your doctor will let you know. This occurs anywhere from one to three months after the surgical procedure.
If you have cataracts in both eyes, your doctor will typically schedule the second surgery 2 days to 1 week after the first eye.
What You Can Expect Once You’ve Recovered
It is important to know that individuals who have previously undergone cataract surgery risk developing a secondary cataract. This common complication is referred to as posterior capsule opacification (PCO) in the medical field. This occurs when the back of the lens capsule, the portion of the lens that was not removed during surgery and that now supports the lens implant, becomes cloudy and impairs your vision. This portion of the lens is known as the lens capsule.
PCO can be treated as an outpatient procedure and takes only five minutes. You will generally need to remain in the doctor’s office for approximately one hour to monitor your eye pressure. Other complications, though uncommon, may include an increase in eye pressure as well as a detachment of the retina.
Anytime you need surgery, you should understand what to expect through all phases. This is true for cataract surgery as well. Make sure to ask any questions you need to ask to help you understand what to expect and your options. You will want to work with a reputable doctor in your community and who you feel comfortable with.
Following your doctor’s orders and getting the rest you need to properly recover is key. After all, you do not want to do anything to jeopardize the work that was done during surgery. It may be frustrating to see and wait to heal, but it will be worth it in the long run.