A cataract is a cloudy covering that forms on your eye lens due to the clumping of the eye proteins. Cataracts may develop for years before they affect your vision and ultimately impacting the quality of life. NCBI ranks cataracts as the leading cause of blindness worldwide. However, this condition can be corrected through cataract surgery, a common and safe procedure done when cataracts begin to adversely affect your vision – such as preventing you from doing daily activities such as reading, driving, seeing in bright light, etc.
The question of whether you will regain your vision after the surgery depends on a couple of factors. However, more often than not, the surgery is a success, allowing you to see better.
Who Needs a Cataract Surgery?
While everyone with a blurred or cloudy vision may qualify for cataract surgery, the final decision often lies with the assessment from your doctor. Early signs of cataracts don’t require immediate surgery until you start to develop blurry vision or double vision or start seeing halos around lights, etc. Before getting cataract surgery, it’s always best to consult your doctor and explain the whole condition and its development history to ensure you are getting the best and personalized care possible.
Types of Cataract Surgery and Procedure
There are different methods of removing the cataract from the eye, and the treatment’s success and safety often depend on the specific procedure used. Most modern techniques such as Femtosecond-laser-assisted cataract surgery (FLACS) are typically safe, while traditional ones like manual extracapsular-cataract surgery (MECS) may increase the risks of complications. During MECS, your surgeon will make a large incision, typically 9-to-13 millimeters long removes the natural lens, and inserts an Intraocular lens(IOL).
However, during FLACS, your surgeon will:
- Use a laser to make an incision in your eye, dividing and softening the cataract.
- Use an ultrasonic probe to dissolve the cataract through a procedure called phacoemulsification. Here, the lens capsule is left intact to allow for attachment of the artificial lens.
- Place an IOL to replace the natural lens.
The benefit of using this technique is that it allows for rapid healing compared to other cataract surgery procedures. That said, there are different types of IOLs designed to improve your vision by focusing light the behind the eye. Some of these lenses are expensive, and you can always choose one that works best for your needs and lifestyle.
Your Vision Post Cataract Surgery
After successfully undergoing cataract surgery, you should expect your vision to start improving after around 4 to 5 days. Your doctor may recommend that you wear a protective shield or eye patch for the next 12 hours after surgery. You may also need to use eye drops to reduce inflammation and control eye pressure or antibiotics to prevent infection. During the first three days, your vision may remain blurred as the eye heals and adjusts. After a week or so, you’ll begin to notice colors, thanks to the new lens. This is because the cataract is a brown-to-yellow clouding that filters the colors.
Before you heal entirely, avoid rubbing your eye or getting involved in extreme activities which may cause strain to the lens or risk injuries. Depending on the individual healing rate, it may take up to 8 weeks before you completely heal and get ready to resume your regular duties. And while cataract surgery is often successful sometimes, complications may arise. It’s recommended to contact your doctor if you experience vision loss, eyelid swelling, or persistent pain that lasts for hours.
When done successfully, cataract surgery restores the vision and allows you to see well again. However, a secondary cataract may develop in some people, often referred to as posterior capsule opacification (PCO). The latter happens when the part of the natural lens (left behind during the initial surgery) becomes cloudy, impairing vision once again. This problem is common and treatable, so you don’t have to worry if you develop one.
The treatment for PCO is a ten-minute (at most) outpatient procedure known as YAG or Yttrium-aluminum-garnet. With YAG treatment, your doctor will use a laser beam to make a small opening into the capsule to create a clear path that allows the light to pass. After this procedure, you often need to relax for about twenty minutes to ensure eye pressure does not rise.
PCO often develops after a couple of weeks or even years after having your cataract surgery. However, this second procedure isn’t performed until your initial cataract surgery has completely healed, i.e., after about three months.
Cataract surgery often sounds complicated and risky, but in reality, it’s safe and effective, except in a few cases where a secondary cataract may develop. Even then, the YAG treatment will successfully solve the problem. If you have a cataract that’s affecting your vision and negatively impacting the quality of your life, cataract surgery may be the proper treatment for you. Book an appointment with us today, and we would love to help.