Cataracts, the progressive clouding of the eye’s lens, are a very common problem for people over the age of 40. It affects the vision of millions of people each year. And aging increases the chance of developing cataracts. Treatment of cataracts consists of surgical removal of the damaged lens and replacement with an artificial one.
Thankfully, cataract surgery is a safe, effective procedure. Even so, choosing to undergo surgery is a big decision, so the answers to commonly asked questions are below.
1. What kind of doctor performs cataract eye surgery?
Specialized eye doctors called ophthalmologists perform cataract surgeries. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors specializing in the diagnoses and treatment of all eye conditions. They are licensed to prescribe glasses and contacts as well as perform eye surgeries.
2. Are you awake during the procedure?
Patients are typically awake and able to communicate during the surgery. General anesthesia where you “go to sleep” is not used, instead topical or local injectable agents are used.
Topical anesthetics are eye drops that numb the eye but still allow it to move. Injectable anesthetics use a small needle to reach the back of the eye by going through the lower eyelid. The injection numbs the eye and surrounding muscles.
If the idea of being awake scares you that’s okay. You may have the option of receiving an oral or intravenous medication beforehand to relax you. The medication often makes it difficult for you to remember what happened during the procedure.
Because of the lowered risk posed by cataract surgery, it’s normally done as an outpatient procedure. You don’t stay overnight in the hospital. You won’t be allowed to drive yourself home, so make sure to have a friend or relative available.
3. What steps are involved with the surgical procedure?
After your eye is sufficiently numbed, the doctor will use an ultrasonic device to break the cataract into small pieces. He or she will remove those pieces using gentle suction.
Once the damaged lens is completely removed then an artificial lens, usually referred to as an intraocular lens or IOL, will be inserted in its place. The artificial lens is positioned in the same location as your natural lens, behind the iris and pupil.
Once the IOL is in place, the surgeon closes the incision. Stitches aren’t usually needed. Then a patch is placed over the affected eye for protection.
Eye cataract treatment surgery takes about 15 to 20 minutes but expect to be at the clinic for a few hours. You’ll have pre-operative forms, exams, and other preparations to complete. After the surgery, you’ll be observed for a time to ensure you are okay to leave.
4. How long is recovery after the surgery?
Recovery is different for everyone, but most patients experience improved vision within a few days and complete healing within a couple of weeks.
You’ll wear the protective patch while sleeping and during other activities. The doctor will provide you with eye drops to use several times a day to reduce inflammation, prevent infection, and make the healing process for comfortable.