A cataract is clouding of the natural lens inside the eye.
People seek treatment because of vision difficulty – trouble with night driving such as increased glare or trouble with small print. As cataracts progress (i.e. as lens clouding progresses) they are changing the power of the lens inside the eye. Sometimes a change in the power of a person’s glasses lens can be made to account for that, and vision can be improved again just by updating glasses.
This first step could be combined with, or prior to, an evaluation with a cataract surgeon. A surgeon can explain cataract surgery and help make decisions about when to proceed with surgery. The surgeon also can explain options for refractive outcome targeting, that is, the plan for refractive correction after surgery. Some patients no longer wear glasses after cataract surgery.
Cataract surgery is the removal of the patient’s cloudy lens and at the time of surgery that lens is replaced with a plastic intraocular lens implant to replace the power of the lens that was removed.
There are several options for intraocular lens implants. Currently there are intraocular lenses available that can correct for a variety of refractive errors including near-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia (the requirement for reading glasses for near tasks).
Once the patient and surgeon decide to proceed with surgery, the patient will need a pre-operative physical exam to make sure they do not have uncontrolled health problems that would make the risk of anesthesia unacceptable. This can be done by a patient’s primary care doctor.
Within the week prior to surgery, the patient will have a visit in the eye clinic during which measurements of their eyes will be taken in order to choose the correct lens implant. At this visit the patient also will receive all of their pre-operative instructions. Patients begin using antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops three days before surgery. Patients are also instructed as to how to clean their eyelids before surgery since while surgical infections are very rare, if they do occur they are usually related to the skin bacteria found on eyelids.
Cataract surgery is a fairly short procedure and most patients find that they have minimal discomfort during or after surgery.