When a doctor tells you that you have a cataract and it should be removed, it may be a frightening prospect. However, when you understand what a cataract is, how it will be removed, and, most importantly, how your vision will be improved, you may wish you’d had the procedure sooner. When a cataract is removed your vision may be clearer, brighter and sharper than it has been for a long time.
What Is a Cataract?
A cataract is a “clouding” of the natural lens in your eye. The lens, which is located just behind the iris (the colored part of your eye) works like the lens of a camera. It focuses the lights, colors and shapes on the retina (the “film” of the camera) and these images are then transmitted to the brain so one can see.
As a person ages (or in some cases because of medications, diabetes or trauma) the lens becomes clouded, keeping light and images from getting through to the retina.
A cataract can be the reason that sharp images become blurred and why seeing at night is more difficult. It’s why the eyeglasses or contact lenses that used to help you read or do any everyday, simple tasks-don’t help any longer.
The best way to treat a cataract is to remove the old, cloudy lens and replace it with a clear, new one (a lens implant). There are no medications or other treatments that will make a cataract go away. The only way to remove a cataract is by surgery. Laser surgery can be used after cataract surgery if a film (or scar) develops on the back surface of the lens implant. (YAG capsulotomy) This can occurs months to years after cataract surgery.
There have been many advances in the field of cataract surgery. Today, millions of people undergo this procedure with excellent results. The operation involves making a tiny incision on the side of the cornea. Through this incision, the surgeon inserts an ultrasonic probe. The probe, about the size of a pen tip, breaks the cloudy lens into pieces, and then vacuums them out of the eye. This process is called phacoemulsification or “phaco”. Once the cataractous lens is removed a lens implant is placed that will do the work of the old, natural lens.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure. You will spend just a few hours at the surgery center. Surgery is usually painless, since the eye is numbed by anesthesia drops (no needles are used). Dr. Sucheski and Dr. Walker utilize the latest techniques in cataract surgery the "no-stitch" technique and foldable lenses. You will go home with only a plastic shield covering the eye. Drops will be prescribed to prevent infection and inflammation and help the eye heal. For a few nights you will need to wear the plastic shield to keep away irritants. Your doctor will see you the next day in the office, and will contact you that evening to answer any questions. You will notice an improvement in your vision soon after surgery. Many people will comment on the improved brightness and clarity on the first post-operative day. Depending on the severity of the cataract that was removed and other conditions of the eye, healing varies from person to person. While most people will have significant improvement by week 1, others may take a bit longer, and may need an adjustment in glasses once they heal. In some cases, glasses are needed less than prior to surgery, except for reading. Your doctor will discuss this with you before surgery.
When your cataract has been removed and a new, clear lens has taken its place, it may seem like a miracle. All the things you couldn’t see clearly are now bright and vivid again. In fact, many people will tell you they haven’t seen life so clearly in years!