Surgery is the only way to remove a cataract. There are no medications, eye drops, exercises or glasses that will remove the visual burden of cataracts once they have formed. Surgical removal of the cataract is indicated when the visual impairment due to cataracts limits the patient’s activities of daily life.
The goal of surgery is to replace the cloudy lens with a permanent, transparent, intraocular lens, made of a specialized plastic. Once the cataract is removed, it cannot return. In addition to restoring clarity to the patient’s vision, the surgeon has the ability to chose any strength intraocular lens to correct any underlying refractive error the patient may have had throughout life.
Prior to the surgery, a series of precise measurements taken using laser technology and theoretic calculations are done to aid the surgeon in selecting the desired lens power. Despite the precision of the measurements, there is no absolute guarantee of the final refractive result. There are many factors that go into the patient’s post-operative visual acuity, including final position of the intraocular lens, individual healing and scarring patterns and slight irregularities in an individual patient’s pre-operative calculations.
Cataract surgery is performed one eye at a time, and the two eyes are usually separated by several weeks. The surgery is done in an operating room, either at a hospital or in an outpatient surgical center. The surgeon uses an operating microscope and microsurgical instruments to perform the surgery. A small incision is made through the cornea of the eye and specialized instruments are used to fragment and suction the cloudy lens from the eye. The back membrane of the lens (called the posterior capsule) is left in place and the plastic intraocular lens implant will be placed inside the capsular bag. The incision is made in such a precise way that usually, no sutures are required at the end of the case.
Cataract Surgery Recovery
Following cataract surgery, it may take a couple days for your eyes to heal and your vision to become clear. You will be able to go home after the surgery, but you will not be able to drive yourself. You will be given an eye shield to wear, especially at night, to protect your eye. It is important not to touch or rub your eye until it is healed. To prevent infection, you will have some drops to put in your eyes for the first several days after surgery.
While your eye is healing, you may experience some irritation, itching and blurry vision. You might also experience a slight headache and some grittiness in your eyes, but that will resolve as it heals. Sensitivity to bright light may last a few days.
Special Tools for Cataract Surgery
At Eye Consultants of Silicon Valley, the Femtosecond laser can be used to assist the surgeon during the cataract surgery. The Femtosecond laser uses a highly refined light beam to precisely measure tissue depths, cut tissue, vaporize surfaces, create tissue planes, stimulate the immune system and create thermal effects, such as coagulation.
While over 98% of cataract surgeries improve vision, a small number of patients may have problems and/or complications. Infections, bleeding, swelling, lens dislocation, swelling and retinal detachment may affect your vision.