A cataract occurs when the lens of the eye becomes clouded, obstructing the entrance of light into the lens and distorting vision. Cataracts may occur as a result of injury but are more commonly found to appear naturally with age.
Cataract removal may be done simply through the removal of the damaged lens and replacing it with an artificial lens. The most popular method of cataract surgery is that of phacoemulsification which is also known as “small-cut cataract surgery”. The doctor first makes a small incision into the lens and inserts a probe through the cut. This probe sends ultrasonic emissions which then soften up and break down the cloudy accumulation over the lens. This cloudy liquid is then vacuumed out of the eye. Once the corrupted lens is removed, an artificial lens usually called the intraocular lens (IOL) is inserted. The replacement of the damaged lens is known as “intraocular lens implantation.”
Another lesser known procedure is that of “Extracapsular cataract extraction technique”. This involves a larger incision into the lens. The hardened cloudy mass is simply removed through the cut in one piece.
There is no stitching involved in cataract surgery and the doctor usually leaves the incision open to heal naturally on its own.
Local and topical anesthesia is usually provided before the procedure to induce numbness in the eye. In local anesthesia a needle is inserted above and under the eye. This however also obstructs any movement of the pupil. In topical anesthesia a solution is placed in the eye, making it numb but allowing it to move freely.
When recovering from surgery it’s important to follow all instructions provided by the doctor. If any medicines have been prescribed, the patient should make sure to finish the course, especially if they’re antibiotics. Feeling usually comes back to the eye after a few hours of the surgery and considerable improvement in vision should be observed at that stage. The complete healing process however ends after a few weeks.
Patients should refrain from touching or rubbing the eye and should keep it safe from soap or shampoo. It is recommended to avoid any exercise after the surgery for a few weeks. For females, eye makeup is strictly prohibited. In case of make-up and swimming, the doctor should be consulted.
Side-effects and Complications
Side-effects of the surgery may include blurred vision with itchiness and stickiness. Mild pain or discomfort associated with the incision made at the time of the surgical procedure. Light sensitivity and decrease in central vision. The impaired central vision is corrected naturally over the course of time.
Cataracts removal is a fairly simple procedure and is one of the most common surgical procedures done in the US. Complications although rare, may include eye infections, tears in the lens, and problems with the artificial lens or retina detachment. The presence of these complications usually means another corrective surgery.
Corrective surgeries being rare occurrences since cataract removal surgery has a 98% success rate, it is still important for the patient to discuss all issues and doubts with the doctor. A pre-operative examination is common before the surgery which usually helps decide which lens would be best suited for the patient.