A cataract is a clouding of the normally clear lens of the eye. When we are young, the natural lens acts like the zoom function in a camera, allowing us to focus up close, without the need for reading glasses or bifocals. As we age, the lens progressively becomes dysfunctional resulting in loss of near vision (presbyopia) that requires the use of reading glasses or bifocals. With aging the natural lens progressively becomes hard, yellow and cloudy, which blocks and scatters light causing blurred vision including unusual glare, poor night vision and a change in how your eyes perceive colors. To restore vision that has been lost or impaired by a cataract, the cloudy lens must be removed and replaced with a clear artificial lens implant.
Cataract surgery is recommended when your vision begins to affect your quality of life or interfere with your ability to perform daily activities. Some signs of cataract include:
- Clouded, blurred or dim vision
- Increasing difficulty with vision at night
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Halos around lights
- The need for brighter light for reading and other activities
- Frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescription
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Double vision in a single eye
Traditional cataract surgery uses a standard, inexpensive, monofocal intraocular lens implant (IOL) that has no ability to provide vision at more than one distance. Patients who select a standard monofocal IOL still need to wear corrective lenses (bifocals or reading glasses) for most activities like driving and reading. However, even with cataract surgery, there are options when choosing a lens implant with your doctor. Premium IOLs are available that allow you to see both distance and near. To determine what IOL implant is best for you need to make an appointment with your ophthalmologist and have several measurements done on your eyes.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient experience. It usually takes 10-30 minutes to complete. Topical or local anesthesia is used with a mild sedative to prepare you for surgery. The surgery should not be painful. Patients may note a pressure sensation and a “light show” during the procedure. The natural lens is broken up using ultrasound into minute particles and removed from the eye. Most of the time, no sutures are needed as the incision is small and usually self-seals. Surgery is done one eye at a time, but the other eye may be scheduled as early as 1-2 weeks later.
Cataract surgery is considered one of the most popular and highly successful procedures, with improved vision occurring in over 90 percent of cases. In fact, a study by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery recently reported that more than 98 percent of cataract patients had their vision successfully improved following surgery. Many patients report vision that is even better than before they developed cataracts. Results are permanent; once removed, cataracts will not reoccur.
Artificial lenses (IOLs) are implanted in the eye to replace natural lenses for patients with cataracts, presbyopia or severe refractive errors. Until recently, IOLs were only available to correct distance vision. These monofocal lenses helped improve distance vision after cataract surgery, but patients still needed glasses or contact lenses for near vision activities like reading and playing cards. Now, advancements in technology have produced multifocal IOLs that allow patients to see clearly at all distances — near, far and many distances in between. Multifocal IOLs such as ReSTOR®, ReZoom® and Crystalens® preserve distance vision and correct presbyopia so cataract surgery patients — and patients seeking treatment for presbyopia alone — can enjoy clear sight without relying on glasses.
YAG Capsulotomy (laser for film on lens implant)
Many patients after cataract surgery experience cloudy vision months, or even years, after the cataract procedure. This condition, sometimes called an “after-cataract, or secondary cataract,” occurs when the posterior capsule, which holds the lens in place, becomes cloudy.
A reliable laser treatment, called a YAG capsulotomy, is performed to shoot a hole in the cloudy posterior capsule, allowing light to more effectively reach the retina. The procedure is quick and painless, with immediate results.