Cataract surgery is an operation to remove your eye’s lens when it is cloudy.
The purpose of your lens is to bend (refract) light rays that come into the eye to help you see. Your own lens should be clear, but with a cataract it is cloudy. Having a cataract can be like looking through a foggy or dusty car windshield. Things may look blurry, hazy or less colorful.
The only way to remove a cataract is with surgery. Your ophthalmologist will recommend removing a cataract when it keeps you from doing things you want or need to do.
During cataract surgery, your cloudy natural lens is removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens. That lens is called an intraocular lens (IOL). Your ophthalmologist will talk with you about IOLs and how they work.
Your ophthalmologist will measure your eye to set the proper focusing power for your IOL. Also, you will be asked about any medicines you take. You might be asked not to take some of these medicines before surgery.
You may be prescribed eyedrop medicines to start before surgery. These medicines help prevent infection and reduce swelling during and after surgery.
The day of surgery:
Your ophthalmologist may ask you not to eat any solid food at least 6 hours before your surgery.
Cataract removal surgery may be done in an outpatient surgery center or in a hospital. Here is what will happen:
Your eye will be numbed with eye drops or with an injection around the eye. You may also be given a medicine to help you relax.
You will be awake during surgery. You may see light and movement during the procedure, but you will not see what the doctor is doing to your eye.
Your surgeon will enter into the eye through tiny incisions (cuts, created by laser or a blade) near the edge of your cornea (the clear covering on the front of your eye). The surgeon uses these incisions to reach the lens in your eye. Using very small instruments, he or she will break up the lens with the cataract and remove it. Then your new lens is inserted into place.
Usually your surgeon will not need to stitch the incisions closed. These “self sealing” incisions eventually will close by themselves over time. A shield will be placed over your eye to protect it while you heal from surgery.
You will rest in a recovery area for about 15–30 minutes. Then you will be ready to go home.
Days or weeks after surgery:
You will have to use eye drops after surgery. Be sure to follow your doctor’s directions for using these drops.
Avoid getting soap or water directly in the eye.
Do not rub or press on your eye. Your ophthalmologist may ask you to wear eyeglasses or a shield to protect your eye.
You will need to wear a protective eye shield when you sleep.
Your ophthalmologist will talk with you about how active you can be soon after surgery. He or she will tell you when you can safely exercise, drive or do other activities again
Your ophthalmologist will examine and test your eyes to make a cataract diagnosis. This comprehensive eye exam will include dilation. This means eye drops will widen your pupils
Your ophthalmologist will examine your cornea, iris, lens and the other areas at the front of the eye. The special slit-lamp microscope makes it easier to spot abnormalities
When your eye is dilated, the pupils are wide open so the doctor can more clearly see the back of the eye. Using the slit lamp, an ophthalmoscope or both, the doctor looks for signs of cataract. Your ophthalmologist will also look for glaucoma, and examine the retina and optic nerve.
Refraction and visual acuity test
This test assesses the sharpness and clarity of your vision. Each eye is tested individually for the ability to see letters of varying sizes.
- Have an eye exam every year if you’re older than 65, or every two years if younger.
- Protect your eyes from UV light by wearing sunglasses that block at least 99 percent UV and a hat.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking is a key risk factor for cataracts.
- Use brighter lights for reading and other activities. A magnifying glass may be useful, too.
- Limit driving at night once night vision, halos or glare become problems.
- Take care of any other health problems, especially diabetes.
- Get the right eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct your vision.
- When it becomes difficult to complete your regular activities, consider cataract surgery.
- Make an informed decision about cataract surgery. Have a discussion with your ophthalmologist about:
- the surgery, preparation for and recovery after surgery,
benefits and possible complications of cataract surgery,
cataract surgery costs, other questions you have.
Cataract surgery will not restore vision lost from other eye conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy. Your ophthalmologist will talk with you about the risks and benefits of cataract surgery.
Cataracts can be removed only with surgery.
If your cataract symptoms are not bothering you very much, you don’t have to remove a cataract. You might just need a new eyeglass prescription to help you see better. You should consider surgery when cataracts keep you from doing things you want or need to do.
During cataract surgery, your eye surgeon will remove your eye’s cloudy natural lens. Then he or she will replace it with an artificial lens. This new lens is called an intraocular lens (or IOL). When you decide to have cataract surgery, your doctor will talk with you about IOLs and how they work.
People who have had cataract surgery may have their vision become hazy again years later. This is usually because the eye’s capsule has become cloudy. The capsule is the part of your eye that holds the IOL in place. Your ophthalmologist can use a laser to open the cloudy capsule and restore clear vision. This is called a capsulotomy.
Cataracts are a very common reason people lose vision, but they can be treated. You and your ophthalmologist should discuss your cataract symptoms. Together you can decide whether you are ready for cataract surgery.
Do you have Cataract Vision?
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