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Cataract Surgery

Cataract Surgery: Clarity in the Blink of an Eye

Cataract removal is one of the safest and most effective surgical procedures. In fact, more than 3 million cataract surgeries are performed each year in the United States. The operation entails making a tiny incision in the eye and inserting an instrument about the size of a pen tip to break up and remove the cloudy lens. Once the cloudy lens is removed, a cataract replacement lens or "IOL" is inserted through the same tiny incision and set into its permanent position.

What to Expect Before and After Surgery

Most people are surprised to find out just how easy and pain-free cataract surgery is. It usually takes 20 to 30 minutes or less and most patients are back to their normal activities the very next day. The following facts will help you prepare for surgery:

  • An anesthetic will be given to numb the nerves in and/or around your eye.
  • Before and/or after surgery your doctor may prescribe eye drops to help prevent infection and reduce swelling.
  • Most patients have improved vision soon after surgery, but your sight may continue to improve for several days or weeks.

What Is an IOL?

An intraocular lens (IOL) is an artificial lens that’s implanted during cataract surgery. Traditionally, monofocal IOLs were used for cataract surgery. This type of lens is very effective at restoring functional distance vision. However, people still need glasses to correct for near vision, and glasses or additional surgery to correct any existing astigmatism. Recent advances have been so significant that new-generation lenses could allow you to see well at all distances without the help of glasses, bifocals, or reading glasses. Following are the three primary types of lenses currently available and what each is designed to do for your vision:

Monofocal lenses such as the AcrySof® IQ IOL have one point of focus and can usually give you clear distance vision. While distance vision is improved, most patients still need to wear glasses for certain tasks, such as reading or working at a computer.

Multifocal lenses such as the AcrySof® ReSTOR® IOL are designed to replace cataracts and correct presbyopia at the same time. Their goal is to give you a full range of clear vision, near to far, and everywhere in between.

Astigmatism-correcting lenses such as the AcrySof® Toric IOL are for patients with existing corneal astigmatism. Similar to monofocal lenses, these lenses usually give patients quality distance vision with less dependence on glasses. Most patients will still need to wear glasses for tasks such as reading or working at a computer.

The correct lens for you will depend on your eyes and your desire to be glasses-free. Your doctor will review your options and explain what you can expect from each one. Cataracts can dramatically affect everything you see and do. But they don’t have to. With a simple procedure, you can lift the fog and get back to seeing what you love. Colors can appear rich and vibrant, and everything you look at can be in clear focus.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is the best time to treat cataracts?

Many people believe cataracts have to be “ripe” before they can be removed. This is no longer true. Today, cataract surgery is a routine procedure that can be performed as soon as your vision interferes with the quality of your life.

What happens if cataracts go untreated?

Over time, the clouded areas of your lens can become larger and more dense, causing your sight to become worse. This could take anywhere from a few months to many years. Eventually, your entire lens can cloud over and cause blindness.

How do I know which lens implant is right for me?

No single lens works best for everyone, and only your ophthalmologist can determine the most appropriate option for you. Overall, patients who chose the multifocal over the monofocal intraocular lens have expressed greater satisfaction with the increased quality of living. Passengers could become drivers again, and golfers could keep their eye on the ball while enjoying the surrounding scenery.

Can cataracts return?

Once a cataract has been removed it cannot return. However, over time, patients may complain that their vision has once again become cloudy. This condition is known as a secondary cataract. It can be easily and rapidly treated by a simple laser procedure performed in the office.

Who performs cataract surgery?

Only ophthalmologists who have had special training in eye surgery can perform cataract surgery.

How successful is cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery has an overall success rate of 98% or greater. Continuous innovations in techniques and instruments have made the procedure safer than ever.

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