As you age, you start noticing many changes in your body. One may be your vision. If your vision seems cloudy and is impairing your ability to see, you may consider the chance that you may have cataracts that are damaging your eye lenses. As you age, eye lenses that are usually clear may become cloudy. Of the many ways to solve the problem, your doctor may recommend surgery to replace the damaged lens with a synthetic one to regain clear vision. Cataract surgery is an outpatient medical procedure your doctor can perform to remove the damaged lens and replace it with a new one. It is a standard procedure that is overall safe.
Who Is Cataract Surgery For?
Surgery is not always the first line of treatment when diagnosed with cataracts. You may not even notice any vision changes. At first, contacts or eyeglasses might help with symptoms. Prescription glasses, a magnifying glass, or brighter reading lights may help to cover up symptoms. But as cataracts grow, more symptoms will begin to show. Your vision can become blurry. You may have difficulty seeing in dim lights. When looking through the cataract, double vision may occur. Everyday tasks like computer work, reading, or anything requiring clear vision may increase in difficulty.
Driving can become dangerous because night vision can be impaired with cataracts. Headlight glare is another issue that can occur. Your eyes may become sensitive to the glare of the sun due to growing cataracts. This can affect daytime sports like golf, swimming, or skiing.
The doctor may recommend cataract surgery when vision difficulties take over your daily activities, such as driving or reading. When all other options, like glasses, no longer work, it is time to remove the cataract. The doctor, an ophthalmologist, can remove the cataract and see the back of your eye. They can also treat other aging conditions of the eye, like retina changes and diabetic retinopathy.
How Does Cataract Surgery Work?
Cataract surgery is performed on an outpatient basis. It is usually painless and quick. The procedure takes about 30 minutes to complete, and you can be driven home right after. The procedure does not require you to be put to sleep or under general anesthesia. Your eye will be numbed with local anesthesia on the surface, and you will remain awake for the duration. If you are panicky before the surgery, the doctor may give you a sedative so you can relax.
The doctor will give the anesthetic either by injection or eye drops. During the procedure, you can move and see the light. However, you will not see your doctor, though you can hear them. The doctor can now take the cataract out. During the surgery, your doctor will observe your eye using a microscope. They will make small incisions to reveal the lens. The lens is then crumbled via ultrasonic waves and removed. It is then replaced with a new lens made of acrylic, silicone, or plastic.
Recovery is usually uneventful. The small incisions made will not need stitches because they close and heal on their own. After the surgery, your doctor will put a bandage on the eye to protect it. Lens replacement is performed as outpatient surgery; you will need someone to drive you home from the hospital that day. The bandage will remain on your eye constantly. It even remains on the eye during sleep to provide protection and aid in appropriate healing. You will need separate surgeries if cataracts are present in both eyes. They are usually done weeks apart to allow both eyes to heal properly.
Cataract Surgery Benefits
Eye Health Protection:
When you have cataracts, many times, you can develop other eye problems. You could develop inflammation of the eye. Cataracts can also increase interocular pressure. This can cause glaucoma. Cataracts can damage your retina, especially if you have diabetes. Treatment for all these conditions is harder for your doctor if you have cataracts. Cataract surgery can protect your vision by preventing complications from these problems.
Your clouded lenses are replaced with clear ones. Of people who have had cataract surgery, 95% have better vision afterward. Your eyesight should improve from the first day. Objects will be more clear and crisp, and colors could be brighter. As your eye continues to heal and your brain adjusts to the new lens, vision will improve more.
You decrease your chances of getting into an accident if you can see better. With good vision, you can decrease the risk of accidents like falling. Cataract surgery leads to fewer surgeries for broken hips in that population. After cataract surgery, safe driving goes up by 50%.
Enhanced Quality of Life:
Blurry vision from cataracts makes everyday tasks harder. It can also hamper enjoyment like tv, reading, games, etc. It can also affect your ability to be independent. Cataract surgery can give you better vision, which allows you to resume your daily life and enjoy new freedoms.
Risk Factors and Side Effects
Usually, there are no side effects with cataract surgery. However, there is a risk of swelling, infection, bleeding, drooping of the eyelid, and detachment of the retina. Within the first 24 hours, there may be an intermittent rise in eye pressure. Sometimes after the surgery, things may appear cloudy again. Sometimes the capsule that holds your new lens in place can thicken, making things cloudy again. This is known as posterior capsule opacification ( PCO). If you develop PCO, it can be treated with a secondary procedure called yttrium aluminum garnet ( YAG) laser capsulotomy. YAG is a painless, simple procedure that uses a laser to make a tiny incision in the capsule of the eye to allow light to come through. This procedure only takes about 5 minutes. You can leave the doctor’s office after a period of monitoring.
Talk to your doctor if you have any of these symptoms to see if cataract surgery is right for you.