When your eye doctor tells you that you have cataracts, he’s referring to the cloudiness on the lenses in your eyes. Cataracts can happen in one or both eyes and is closely related to aging. As a matter of fact, by the age of 80, nearly half of all Americans are diagnosed with cataracts.
The lens that develops a cloudy abnormality lies on the top of your eye. It’s the clear part that focuses light to your retina, which sits at the back of your eye. When light hits the retina, it sends signals to your brain and delivers the images you take for granted. If that signal is blurred because of the cloudy covering on the lens, your vision is blurred too.
Replacing the Lens
You may find new prescription glasses, sunglasses with anti-glare properties and magnifiers help you see better when the cloudiness first appears. Once they stop working, however, you should consider a surgical option.
Cataract surgery is a process that replaces the cloudy lens with a new, clearer artificial lens. The procedure is one of the most common in the country, easily performed by your ophthalmologist as an outpatient procedure in his office. Cataract surgery is a highly successful procedure that can restore your sight. It has about a 90 percent chance of success.
Your eye doctor only suggests replacing your lens through surgery when your vision becomes so bad that you have difficulty driving, reading, watching television or performing other everyday activities. You may also consider surgery when the cataract doesn’t affect your vision, but does prevent your doctor from examining your eyes for other conditions such as diabetic retinopathy or age-related macular degeneration.
Cataract surgery is performed in only one eye at a time. If you have cataracts in both eyes, you need to make separate appointments for each eye and wait four to six weeks between procedures. Before each surgery, your eye doctor does a painless ultrasound test to measure the shape and size of your lens. This allows your ophthalmologist to order the correctly sized intraocular lens, or IOL, for you.
You’re advised to stop taking all medications for at least 24 hours before the surgery, including vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter pain relievers. You may be given antibiotic eye drops to reduce the risk of infection. Since you go home the same day of the surgery, you need to have someone drive you home.
The entire surgery takes about an hour to perform. Before beginning, you may be given a mild sedative to help you relax. Your eye then is dilated with eye drops and the area is numbed with a local anesthetic. It’s possible that you might remain awake during cataract surgery or you may drift off.
Your eye surgeon uses one of two methods to remove your cloudy lens:
- By removing the lens in one piece after making an incision in your eye
- By suctioning the lens out in pieces after breaking it up with an ultrasound probe
The artificial lens is then put into the now-empty lens capsule. A patch is placed over your eye as you rest for 15 to 20 minutes for observation to make sure there isn’t any sign of trouble, such as bleeding or a reaction to the anesthesia.
Laser Cataract Surgery
Laser surgery is another option provided by some ophthalmologists. Lasers allow the surgeon to more accurately remove your cataracts and precisely place your new lens. In addition to the focused beam that breaks up the old lens, doctors rely on 3D technology to get the best picture of your eye’s size and shape.
Outcomes basically are the same for the laser removal and more traditional forms of cataract surgery. Recovery time is very similar too. You should be able to resume normal activities within 24 hours, giving your eyes time to adjust after the drops and lens replacement.
Colors usually seem much brighter after cataract surgery because you’ve been looking through yellowish lenses for so long that you’ve been accustomed to cloudy images. Your eyes may feel itchy and uncomfortable for a couple days following surgery, but that’s normal. Avoid rubbing your eyes during this time.
You’ll need to make a follow-up visit to your ophthalmologist within a couple days and then again in a couple weeks to ensure everything is healing properly. You may receive an injection of steroid medication if you experience inflammation. You may need to wear an eye patch if you’re still sensitive to light. You should expect to be completely recovered, with no adverse side effects, after eight weeks.
Complications can occur after any type of surgery. Your eyes are particularly vulnerable, so be aware of these risks when you’re thinking about eye surgery. Potential problems can include:
- Double vision
- Eye pain
- Low or high eye pressure
- Blindness (in very rare circumstances)
It’s very common to develop a second cataract in the same eye after you’ve had one. It’s called a posterior capsule opacification or PCO, and it occurs when the piece of the lens capsule that was left in place at the back of your eye starts to look cloudy.
A YAG laser capsulotomy is a simple and safe procedure that can clear this up quickly in as little as five minutes. The painless procedure is performed in the doctor’s office where the laser beam is used to create a small hole in your lens to let light through. Typically, you’ll remain in the office for up to an hour just to make sure there are no other complications.
Research and Prevention
Research is ongoing to uncover the causes of cataracts that currently aren’t known, according to the National Eye Institute. One theory being tested is that too much ultraviolet sun exposure increases your risk of developing cataracts. Another study is looking at various vitamins and supplements that may delay the onset of cataracts. Genetics also may prove to hold significant answers.
You can help to delay the onset of cataracts right now, however, by taking certain precautions such as:
- Wearing hats with wide brims outdoors
- Blocking the sun with UV protection sunglasses
- Stopping smoking, as smoking may be related to cataracts
- Eating a diet high in antioxidants, such as green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit
- Undergoing a thorough vision test on an annual basis after you turn 60
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult eye doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified eye doctor can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have any questions about Eye Cataracts surgery? Would like to schedule an appointment with a best NY Ophthalmologist or Optometrist, Dr. Saba Khodadadian of Manhattan Eye Specialists, please contact our office for consultation with New York City Eye doctor.
Dr. Saba Khodadadian, Optometrist (NYC Eye Doctor)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 533-4821