What should I expect during and after surgery?
Before surgery, your L.O. Eye Care cataract specialist will perform pre-operative tests to determine which lens options are available for you. Be sure to tell your doctor about any and all medications and supplements you are taking as they may interfere with your cataract surgery.
A technique known as phacoemulsification is most commonly used to remove a cataract. This involves the use of an instrument that applies high-energy sound waves to fragment the cataract into small pieces so it can be removed through a small incision.
As technology progresses the incision size in cataract surgery continues to shrink. Cataracts can be removed now through 2.5 to 3.0 mm incisions. This small incision size allows the surgeon to have better control of the surgery. It also allows for more rapid removal of the cataract. It allows a surgeon to create a self-sealing incision that does not require sutures. This "no stitch" incision heals rapidly and allows quick return of vision.
The advent of soft foldable lens implants allows the incision to remain small. Previously, the cataract could be removed through a small incision, but the incision had to be enlarged to place a lens implant within the eye. Prior to lens implants, thick "Coke bottle" glasses or contact lenses were required to restore this focusing power to the eye.
Changes in anesthetic technique have also allowed patients to return to normal activities more quickly. General anesthesia or gas anesthetic is rarely used now. Local anesthetic using sedatives, topical anesthetic or injections around the eye are often used. With these techniques, most people are able to resume normal activities soon after surgery.
The final component to a successful surgery is a thorough discussion with your L.O. Eye Care surgeon. It is important to help you understand the benefits and develop realistic expectations as well as to understand alternative treatments and possible complications.
Watch a cataract surgical procedure here (Warning: this is an actual surgery, viewer discretion is advised).
There are risks involved with cataract surgery, as with any surgical procedure. Be sure to ask your L.O. Eye Care cataract specialist any questions you may have.
Risks and complications include:
- Bleeding inside the eye
- Increased pressure inside the eye
- Swelling of the retina
- Swelling of the cornea
- Retinal detachment
- Loss of vision
Recovery from cataract surgery occurs quickly. You should be able to resume normal activities within 24 hours. It is very important that you follow the doctor’s post-operative instructions carefully. Your doctor will provide you with any medications and aftercare instructions.
- Is surgery the only option to treat a cataract?
- Just because you have a cataract does not mean that you have to have it removed. Cataract surgery only becomes necessary if you are not happy with your vision and want to see better and are not able to achieve adequate improvement with a change in glasses. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions or concerns about your vision.
- Does cataract surgery hurt?
- Thanks to numbing drops and medications to help you relax, this procedure involves minimal discomfort.
- Will I be asleep during cataract surgery?
- Since this procedure does not take very long, it is unnecessary to put you completely asleep with general anesthesia. Instead, your surgeon will use a local/topical anesthetic to numb your eye and you will remain awake during the surgery.
- Who performs the procedure, a surgeon or a technician?
- Your surgeon will perform the procedure. There will be a technician, nurse and a nurse anesthetist in the room to assist them.
- I have cataracts in both eyes. Will the doctor treat both at the same time?
- Typically, doctors will perform surgery in the second eye one to four weeks after the first eye. All patients are different, so talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
- How long will I be in the hospital or surgery center?
- Patients commonly spend only a few hours at the hospital or surgery center, and are allowed to go home the very same day.
- How long before I can see after surgery?
- Every patient and every eye is different, but patients commonly see well shortly after surgery. Ask your doctor how quickly he or she expects you to recover.
- How long until I can return to normal activities?
- Most patients can resume normal basic activities like reading and watching TV by the next day, and return to work within one to seven days. However, results vary for different patients, so you should ask your doctor what is best for you.
- After surgery, will I be able to drive at night?
- Your ability to drive at night should be much enhanced once your cataract is removed. Patients with a Multifocal IOL may notice a ring of light around headlights and other point-light sources. These are typically mild, rarely bothersome, and tend to diminish with time.
- Will I need glasses after cataract surgery?
- It depends on what type of intraocular lens you elect to have implanted. Most patients do not need glasses or contacts for distance tasks following cataract surgery with a standard distance vision lens, but still rely on glasses for reading, sewing, computer work and other close up activities.
- Can my cataract come back?
- No, once a cataract has been removed it cannot return. However, over time, patients may complain that their vision has once again become cloudy. This sometimes-common condition, which may occur with any type of lens, is caused by scar tissue behind the implant and can be easily treated by a painless laser procedure performed in the office.
- Who do I call if I have a problem?
- Consult your doctor immediately if you have any problems, especially if you experience decreased vision or pain.