What is Cataract?

Cataract surgery is performed to treat cataracts. Cataracts can cause blurry vision and increase the glare from lights. If a cataract makes it difficult for you to carry out your normal activities, your doctor may suggest cataract surgery.

When a cataract interferes with the treatment of another eye problem, cataract surgery may be recommended. For example, doctors may recommend cataract surgery if a cataract makes it difficult for your eye doctor to examine the back of your eye to monitor or treat other eye problems, such as age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy.

 What Causes Cataract?

Most people who develop cataracts are older adults. Almost everyone over the age of 65 has a cataract in one or both eyes that interfere with vision. Diseases, such as diabetes, and the long-term use of some medications, such as corticosteroids, can contribute to the formation of cataracts. Physical injuries, such as a puncture wound to the eye, and injuries caused by chemicals hitting the eye or by exposure to excessive X-rays, intense heat or, possibly, too much sunlight also can cause cataracts. In addition, smokers tend to have a higher occurrence of cataracts than non-smokers.

Cataracts may take years to form, or they may worsen rapidly in a few months. Furthermore, cataracts can affect both eyes at the same time, but they may develop at different rates. People with cataracts often experience one or more of the following symptoms:

Blurred or hazy vision.

Poor vision at night or in very bright light

Difficulty driving, especially at night because of glare from headlights of oncoming cars.

Seeing “ghost” images.

Change in color vision.

Loss of contrast.

Poor distance vision.

Can Cataracts Be Treated Non-Surgically?

Cataracts do not go away on their own or with the use of medication. The only way to treat cataracts is to have them removed surgically. However, there are a few things that can be done to provide temporary relief from the symptoms of cataracts until an operation can be performed. Eye drops that widen the pupil of the eye may help you to see better if the cataract is small and near the back of the lens; your surgeon will be able to determine the exact location of the cataract and whether eye drops may be a temporary option for you. Wearing sunglasses or other special types of glasses will protect your eyes from sunlight.

During The Procedure

Cataract surgery, usually an outpatient procedure, takes an hour or less to perform.

First, your doctor will place eyedrops in your eye to dilate your pupil. You’ll receive local anesthetics to numb the area, and you may be given a sedative to help you relax. If you’re given a sedative, you may remain awake, but groggy, during surgery.

During cataract surgery, the clouded lens is removed, and a clear artificial lens is usually implanted. In some cases, however, a cataract may be removed without implanting an artificial lens.


How Long Does It Take To Recover From Cataract Surgery?

You may have to use eye drops after surgery. Be sure to follow your doctor’s directions for using these drops.

Avoid getting soap or water directly in the eye.

Do not rub or press on your eye. Your ophthalmologist may ask you to wear eyeglasses or a shield to protect your eye.

You will need to wear a protective eye shield when you sleep.

Your ophthalmologist will talk with you about how active you can be soon after surgery. They will tell you when you can safely exercise, drive or do other activities again.


Are There Any Complications?

As with any surgical procedure, there may be complications that occur during or following cataract removal. Although complications are rare, those that occur most commonly are:

Inflammatory reaction. Your eye and the area around it may swell and be tender or painful. You will be treated with an antibiotic and/or anti-inflammatory drugs in drops, by local injection, or through the bloodstream. Very rarely, if the infection progresses, small amounts of an antibiotic may be injected into the eye.

Fluid in the retina (or macular edema). This complication occurs more commonly in people who have certain conditions, such as diabetes. Although the problem usually clears up by itself, eye drops or pills are sometimes used to help remove the fluid.

Other serious, but less common complications, that may occur following cataract surgery include dislocation of the lens implant, infection, retinal detachment and excessive bleeding. You should discuss these unlikely difficulties with your ophthalmologist if you are concerned about them.
Life After Surgery.

How Long Does Cataract Surgery Take?

Cataract surgery takes 10 to 20 minutes to complete, depending on the severity of the condition. You should also plan to spend up to 30 minutes following the surgery to recover from the effects of the sedative.

Things to Consider

The progression of your cataracts will determine if surgery is needed. If your cataracts are causing difficulties with daily activities, such as reading, filling out checks/forms or driving, you should speak to your eye doctor about having cataract surgery.

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