About Cataract Surgery
A cataract develops when the natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy, and is mostly due to exposure of the eye to ultraviolet radiation throughout life. Typically, cataracts affect people over the age of 50. However, a cataract can occur at any age, and can also be inherited (genetic). A congenital cataract occurs when a baby is born with a cataract because of an inherited defect or infection within the womb.
Cataract surgery is performed when eyesight is impaired to the point where the patient has some difficulty doing daily tasks, like driving or reading. In children, it is important that surgery is performed as soon as possible to prevent permanent loss of vision. It is best to perform the surgery before the cataract is too dense, or this makes the procedure more difficult and lengthy. A special type of ultrasound known as phacoemulsification is used to break up the cataract into smaller pieces that are easily removed from the eye. The cataract is replaced with an artificial intraocular lens implant made out of silicone or acrylic.
The entire cataract and implant procedure is done through a small incision in the outer surface of the eye within minutes, often without the need for sutures. The patient is given mild intravenous sedation during the surgery and it only takes a few anesthetic drops to numb the eye. The surgery is painless and the eye does not have to be patched after the procedure. If the other eye has a cataract, then it is prudent to wait several weeks to consider surgery on the second eye.
In addition to the benefit of improved vision, the patient will also be less dependent on their glasses following cataract surgery. The intraocular lens implant is calculated prior to the procedure, therefore reducing the need for a distance vision prescription in the new glasses. Most postoperative patients rely on their new glasses mostly for near reading vision. For patients with astigmatism (irregular curvature of the corneal surface) the surgeon can correct this at the time of the procedure with a Limbal Relaxing Incision or a Toric intraocular implant lens.
Advances in Cataract SurgeryCataract surgery has undergone many advances over the last 20 years. It is a much faster and safer procedure than it was before, and visual recovery is rapid. Most patients see an improvement in their eyesight within a few hours after surgery. Eye drops that reduce inflammation and prevent infection are prescribed to be taken a few times a day for 4-5 weeks postoperatively. The new, clear artificial lens implant is permanent, and will never turn into a cataract. In about 80% of all patients that have cataract surgery, a simple laser procedure is required if scar tissue film develops behind the lens implant. The scar tissue (also known as a secondary cataract) can occur almost immediately after the surgery, or months to years later. The buildup of this scar tissue is part of the normal healing response of the eye, and once cleared away with the laser, it will never return.