FAQ's About Cataracts and Cataract Surgery
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Cataract formation is a natural aging process in which the lens of the eye turns cloudy. Some patients describe their vision with a cataract as if they are looking through a dirty windshield of a car.
Factors that can contribute to cataract development include genetics, excessive UV exposure, diabetes, tobacco use, and some medications (such as steroids). However, it is generally an aging process.
Sometimes, in the early stages, a change of glasses will help for some time. Once the cataract has progressed to the point where your glasses no longer improve your vision to your satisfaction, surgery is the only way to remove a cataract.
In many people, cataract symptoms develop slowly and the early stages of cataracts do not interfere with your normal activities. As the cataract matures and your vision worsens, life can become more difficult. When you have difficulty performing ordinary activities, are frustrated with your decreased eyesight, or your glasses no longer improve your vision, you will then know the time is right for surgery. Our goal is to restore your vision so you can see and do the things you enjoy.
Once your cataract has reached the point when it needs to be removed, surgery is the only way to remove it.
Because contact lenses can slightly change the shape of your eye, they should be removed and not worn for a number of days prior to cataract surgery and your evaluation. Soft lenses should be out for a minimum of 7 days and gas permeable (hard) lenses should be out for 3 weeks before your surgery and evaluation.
Laser-assisted cataract surgery is now available for some patients. During your consultation your doctor will discuss options for your post-cataract vision plan. Depending on the type of lens implant you choose part of the surgery may done with the femtosecond laser. Be sure to discuss your options with your doctor to determine if you are a candidate for this breakthrough technology in cataract surgery.
The cataract is removed using a procedure called Phacoemulsification, or phaco. A small incision is made on the side of the cornea, the clear, dome-shaped surface that covers the front of the eye. Dr. Owczarek inserts a tiny probe into the eye. This device emits ultrasound waves that soften and break up the lens so that it can be removed by suction. All cataract surgery done at the Cataract and Laser Center is done by phacoemulsification, also called "small incision cataract surgery."
Generally, cataract surgery is performed on one eye at a time and your surgeon will typically do "worst first". If necessary, the second eye can be operated on within 1-2 weeks.
No surgery can be guaranteed, but cataract surgery is considered one of the safest and most successful surgeries. The few complications that do occur are usually cared for without any permanent effects. However, this is a surgical procedure, and there is always the very slight chance that a complication could result in loss of vision.
There is no need to stop medications before surgery. You can even take them the day of surgery. It is important to tell the nurses what your prescriptions are and to inform them of any existing medical conditions.
Yes, you are encouraged to eat prior to your surgery. If you are diabetic you may even want to bring a small snack with you.
You will not need to change out of your clothes for your surgery so it is best to wear something that is comfortable. The temperature in the Cataract and Laser center is a little cool so you may want to bring a light sweater. Please make sure it can easily be removed for the nurses to take your blood pressure.
Most patients feel no pain during surgery, only some pressure. Topical anesthetic drops are used to numb the eye prior to surgery. After surgery, you may feel some minor discomfort, such as scratching or tearing as the numbing drops wear off.
We have a special instrument, called an eyelid speculum, to prevent you from blinking.
If for some reason during surgery you need to cough or sneeze you must simply inform us so your surgeon can be prepared.
The surgery itself is typically very short, just 5 to 10 minutes. However, the preparations before surgery can take 1 to 1.5 hours. Be prepared to spend up to 2 to 3 hours at the Cataract and Laser Center for preparation, surgery, and post-operative care.
Due to advances in cataract surgery, there is no need for general anesthesia, needles, or stitches. Topical anesthetic drops are used to numb the eye, and we can provide you with a medication for anxiety, if needed.
Since there are no nerve cells in the capsule where the lens is implanted you will not feel the lens.
Cataract surgery removes your eye's natural lens, which accounts for about 40% of the eye's focusing power. Without a replacement lens, you would need a very thick pair of glasses which would distort your vision. The artificial lens implant replaces the focusing power of your original lens.
Because the lens is placed inside the eye, the implant requires no maintenance and will last for your lifetime.
You will leave the OR with a clear plastic shield over your eye which prevents you from rubbing or touching your eye. You will be able to see through the shield, which is attached with tape, and you will wear the shield until your post-operative appointment the next morning. You will continue to use the shield while sleeping two weeks post-operatively.
Vision after cataract surgery varies from person to person and from eye to eye. Soon after your operation you may see noticeable improvement or your vision may be a little blurry. Both can be normal.
You will be able to resume your normal activities right away. When you shower just be careful to pat the eye dry; do not rub your eye. It is also safe for you to bend over.
When you are able to see clearly and are comfortable with your new vision, you may drive and return to work. If you are able to see 20/40 or better without glasses, you may want to have the corrective lenses restriction removed from your driver's license.
If after surgery you still need corrective lenses you will be able to get a new prescription from your optometrist at your 2 week post-operative checkup.
The cataract cannot return once it has been removed. However, the lens capsule (the part of the eye that holds the lens in place) sometimes becomes cloudy several months or years after the original cataract operation. If the cloudy capsule blurs your vision, Dr. Owczarek can perform a second procedure using a laser, called a posterior capsulotomy (YAG), to make an opening in the cloudy lens capsule, restoring normal vision. This laser procedure is done at the Cataract and Laser Center.
Because they are so thrilled with their vision, most patients schedule a date for surgery for their second eye within one week of the first eye. The date for the second eye can be scheduled when you return for your post-operative exam.
If you have more questions, call our office and ask to speak with one of the nurses or our surgical coordinator.