Cataract surgery is a safe and easy procedure to remove the lenses in your eyes affected by cataracts and replace them with safe, artificial lenses called the Intraocular lens (IOL). Some people with Cataracts don’t usually need surgery as they can see and read just fine, however, as the disease progresses, the person affected will eventually experience its symptoms causing vision loss. Read this article to learn more.
What is a Cataract?
Our eyes, just like a camera, has lenses, which are located behind our irises. For us to see, light passes through these lenses and with the help of the brain, lets you see and process the image or objects in front of you.
If these lenses are blocked by a cataract, there will be a disruption of light passing through the lenses making your vision foggy or blurry. The effect of a cataract on your vision depends on the location and severity of the Cataract. If you have Cataracts that are starting to affect your vision, then you might need cataract surgery.
Types of Cataracts
Various types of Cataracts include:
- Nuclear cataracts - These are cataracts that affect the center part of the lens. During the initial stages, you might experience nearsightedness or improvement in your vision, however, as it worsens, you’ll experience blurry or foggy vision usually yellowish or brownish in color.
- Cortical cataracts - This affects the edges of the lenses first and progresses until it reaches the center where light passing through is eventually disrupted.
- Congenital cataracts - This refers to cataracts that have been there since birth. These type of cataract is usually genetic and sometimes caused by other conditions such as myotonic dystrophy, neurofibromatosis, rubella, or galactosemia.
- Posterior subcapsular cataracts - This type of cataract affects the back part of your lens, where the light passes through. Unlike other cataracts, this one progresses faster and affects your vision during the early stages.
Common Causes of Cataracts
The most common causes why cataracts form is because of:
- Old age - Cataracts usually develop during the senior years. According to Cleveland Clinic, about 50% of seniors at the age of 80 and older have cataracts.
- Heredity/Genetics - Genetics also play a role in the possibility of having Cataracts. If people from your family tree have Cataracts when they were older, it’s more likely that you’ll have it too when you get older.
Other than these 2, there are also risk factors for having cataracts such as:
- Chronic illnesses like:
- Vices such as smoking and alcohol drinking
- History of eye injury or inflammation
- History of eye surgery
- Too much exposure to sunlight/UV
- Long-term use of corticosteroid medicines
- Long-term use of steroid medications (treatments for Arthritis and Lupus)
- Use of Penothiazine drugs (treatments for Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder)
- Radiation treatment
Symptoms of Cataracts
Symptoms of Cataracts include:
- A cloudy or blurry vision
- Sensitivity to bright lights
- Double vision
- Glares or seeing halos around lights
- Difficulty reading without extra lights/brightness
- Poor vision at night
- Changes in prescription eyeglasses.
Note: At the beginning stages, cataracts don’t usually affect your vision, but if it’s starting to affect your eyesight and brings you inconvenience, Cataract surgery is the solution.
Types of Cataract Surgery
There are mainly 2 types of Cataract surgery performed depending on their severity. The 2 types include:
- Phacoemulsification - This includes only a small incision on your eye to remove the lenses affected by a cataract. This is done with the help of high-frequency sound waves, wherein the lens is broken down into pieces before being removed and replaced by an artificial lens.
- Extracapsular surgery - This type of surgery is performed for people who have severe cases of cataracts. In Extracapsular surgery, your ophthalmology surgeon cuts a larger incision and instead of breaking the lens apart, it will be removed whole before replacing it with the artificial lens.
Before, During, and After Cataract Surgery
Cataract surgery only takes about an hour or less, and you are usually allowed to leave the hospital the same day. Though it’s a minor operation, preparing for the day of surgery should be taken seriously, in this part, I will share some of the things you should expect before, during, and after surgery.
Preparation before surgery usually takes a week. And during this phase, your ophthalmologist will conduct tests and ultrasound on your eyes to determine the proper size and focusing power of the IOL that will be used to replace your lens. Different types of IOL Include:
- Monofocal - This type is measured either for short, medium, or long-distance vision.
- Multifocal - Unlike monofocal IOL, multifocal IOL is made for both near and far-distance vision simultaneously.
- Accommodative - This type of IOL is for adjusting at different distances.
- Toric - This type of IOL is made for the correction of eyes with astigmatism.
Your doctor might also prescribe some eye drop medications prior to surgery to reduce the possibility of swelling and infection. You should expect some medicine or food restrictions as well.
During the surgery, expect your surgeon will:
- Apply eye drops containing anesthetics.
- You will remain awake throughout the surgery, but will not feel anything or see what the surgeon is doing.
- Your surgeon will cut incisions at the edge of your cornea to reach your eye’s lens. The size of the incision will depend on what type of cataract surgery your surgeon is following (either Phacoemulsification or Extracapsular surgery).
- When the lens is finally removed, the surgeon will put the replacement lens in place.
- After the surgery, you will stand by for 15-30 minutes, and before leaving the hospital, your doctor might prescribe eyedrops or medications to avoid infection or swelling.
Your recovery period will take about weeks before your eyes are fully healed. You might also feel several side effects a few days after the surgery such as:
- Blurry vision (usually takes a few days as your eyes are still healing)
- Itching and discomfort
- Sensitivity to brightness
- Watery eyes
You also need to regularly use the eye drops prescribed by your doctor and have weekly follow-up checkups. You should also avoid:
- Heavy lifting
- Touching your eyes
- Bending over
- Other risky activities that might injure your eyes.
Note: If you experience persistent swelling, pain, or vision loss after surgery, tell your ophthalmologist immediately.
Where Can I Inquire for Cataract Surgery
You can inquire and plan for a cataract surgery first by finding the nearest Ophthalmologist or hospital.
A cataract is a common disease in the eyes among seniors. Though it might not be a life-threatening condition, it still brings about inconvenience and discomfort. If you feel that your Cataract is starting to hinder your daily activities, then it might be height time to get cataract surgery.