Cataracts occur when the eye’s natural lens gets cloudy. The lens is a structure within the eye that is clear and responsible for focusing light that passes through the pupil. When a cataract forms, images may become blurry or dim. Some people describe the image as looking through a dirty window, while others may notice glare. They are a normal part of aging, but can also be related to family history, medications (commonly steroids), and trauma.
There are no medications or drops to rid your eyes of cataracts. The only treatment is surgery. Fortunately, cataract surgery is very successful, and patients do not need to wait until the lens is mature or ripe. When to have surgery depends on your vision and how much of your activities are affected by the cataract. Cataract surgery is an outpatient surgery that typically lasts for an hour, and many patients go back to work the next day. We are happy to help you determine if you are ready for cataract surgery, as well as work with Medicare and your insurance to cover the cost of surgery.
Cataract Surgeries with Higher Precision and Accuracy
Cataract surgery involves removing the cloudy lens and replacing it with an intraocular lens implant (IOL) in order to provide focus. Most commonly, the IOL is focused for distance and patients will need glasses for seeing near and reading. There are multifocal IOLs, such as ReSTOR and Technis, that allow for distance, near, and sometimes intermediate correction. They are the best opportunity for patients to gain spectacle independence and freedom from wearing glasses after cataract surgery.
Many cataract patients also have astigmatism, which is when the surface of the eye is not completely round, but rather steep on one side and flat on the other (akin to a football). This irregularity in the curvature leads to distortion and blurring of the vision. A toric IOL can correct for that astigmatism at the time of cataract surgery. For patients with higher degrees of astigmatism, it provides the sharpest and clearest vision, compared with the basic IOL. Another option for reducing astigmatism during surgery is a limbal relaxing incision (LRI) in the cornea. Our surgeons can guide you on which IOL is right for you. Trust your eyes to Premier Eye Care Group best ophthalmologists.
Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery with Alcon LenSx®
Dr Brent offers femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery (FLACS) as an option for your surgery. This bladeless technology is customized to each patient’s needs. It provides incredible accuracy, precision, and tremendous patient outcomes.
Small degrees or amounts of astigmatism can be corrected with the laser, which improves sharpness in the vision. The laser can be used to break up the cataract prior to removal with the traditional phacoemulsification instrument, which lowers the amount of energy used in surgery. Lowering the energy used to break up the cataract makes the procedure safer for harder, denser, more mature cataracts and also conditions with unstable cataract/lens support. Plus, lower energy makes it safer for eyes with Fuchs’ dystrophy or corneal guttata, which is when the corneal can swell after surgery from too much energy used.
If you don’t like the thought of having a very sharp blade in or around your eye during surgery, LenSx® is the way to go. According to a surgeon at the Wills Eye Institute, “It’s as a mix of Harry Potter and Star Wars.”
What causes cataracts and how can I prevent them?
There’s no real way to prevent cataracts, as they are simply a part of aging and are caused by a natural buildup of protein in your eye’s lens. Fortunately, they can be treated with a common and generally safe surgery.
My eye care provider said I have mature or advanced cataracts. What does this mean?
Mature or advanced cataracts means that your cataracts have developed to the point that your lens appears to be mostly opaque and makes things difficult to see. When you have mature or advanced cataracts you will usually require surgery.
When am I likely to develop cataracts?
People start to develop cataracts as early as their 40s, but generally don’t start to notice symptoms of their cataracts until their 60s.
Is there any way to correct my cataracts, besides surgery?
No, but you can manage some of the early symptoms of cataracts with new prescription glasses or contact lenses, and by wearing sunglasses to counteract light sensitivity until it’s time to have surgery.
When should I get my cataract surgery?
What will happen before I have the surgery?
Generally, a week or two before surgery, your surgeon will let you know if there are any medications you should stop taking before the surgery, and test your eyes to see what replacement lens could give you the best visual outcome.
If you have another condition that also affects how well you see, like astigmatism (where your cornea is shaped differently and causes blurred vision) or presbyopia (not being able to see close up), your surgeon may discuss a replacement lens that could treat both during your cataract surgery. Talk to your eye care provider about the best options to free yourself from your cataracts, as well as your glasses.
It’s important to note that, while your health insurance typically covers the cost of conventional surgery and a standard monofocal lens, some out-of-pocket expenses are associated with advanced-technology lenses, like an astigmatism-correcting lens or a multifocal lens. Make sure you ask your surgeon if they offer payment plans so that you can make a one-time investment to achieve better vision.
What are my replacement lens options?
Depending on your needs, you can talk to your doctor about advanced-technology lenses that also correct cataracts and other vision issues, like astigmatism (all images are blurry), presbyopia (trouble seeing up close), or astigmatism and presbyopia at the same time.
These are often referred to as:
• Toric IOLs (that correct astigmatism to help you see far away)
• Multifocal IOLs (that correct presbyopia [the inability to see near] as well as provide distance [driving] and intermediate [computer] vision), and
• Multifocal toric IOLs (that correct astigmatism to provide clearer distance [driving] vision and correct presbyopia for intermediate [computer] vision)
Will my choice of replacement lens make that much of a difference to my vision?
The lens that you and your doctor choose can make a big difference in your vision after surgery. If you know you have astigmatism, then an advanced-technology lens that can correct both your cataract and astigmatism may be your best option for seeing most things clearly without glasses. If you have difficulty seeing things close up due to presbyopia, there are also lenses available to help you see more clearly without relying on reading glasses as much. Want to start learning about your surgery choices? Check out Cataract Surgery Lens Options to learn more about replacement lens options and how to talk to your surgeon about what you want out of your cataract surgery
What other options do I have for cataract surgery?
You and your surgeon can decide on whether you want to have a bladeless laser-assisted surgery or manual surgery. Both techniques have been shown to be generally safe and successful.
What are the risks of cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is generally regarded as one of the safest surgeries you can have. Although rare, risks can include: inflammation, infection, bleeding, swelling, retinal detachment, glaucoma, secondary cataract, or loss of vision.
When will my vision return to normal?
You can generally expect your vision to begin improving within a few days. If you wear glasses due to astigmatism and don’t choose a lens that corrects astigmatism and cataracts, you will still need to wear glasses after surgery. Similarly, if you wear readers to help you see up close for presbyopia, and don’t choose a multifocal lens, you’ll still need to wear glasses after surgery as well. Make sure you talk to your surgeon about what to expect after surgery.
Looking to learn more about lenses? Visit Cataract Surgery Lens Options to discover the right lens for you.