A cataract is said to have formed when the eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy. The lens is supported in the eye behind the iris (colored part that forms the pupil) and plays an important role in focusing light onto the retina (tissue lining the back of the eye that responds to light and creates the visual signal). Usually at birth, the eye’s natural lens is perfectly clear. With time and age, the lens becomes more rigid and takes on more of a yellow or brown color. Often times at earlier stages, cataracts are asymptomatic and vision can be maintained simply by changing the eye glass or contact lens prescription. Eventually the cataract reaches a point that enough light is blocked or scattered that vision becomes blurry. The most common complaints patients have from cataracts are: trouble with night vision, glare or halos around lights, and frequently changing eye glass prescriptions. It is estimated that nearly 22 million people in the US currently suffer from cataracts. While cataracts typically become bothersome after age 60, patients with conditions such as diabetes, history of radiation, or history of trauma can develop them at a much younger age. Cataracts typically do not hurt the eye or cause permanent damage if left alone, but they will not improve on their own. The only way to fix a cataract is to remove it surgically.
Most Common Outpatient Surgery
Cataract surgery is now the most commonly performed outpatient surgery in the US. It is an elective outpatient procedure that is covered by insurance. Cataract surgery is done by Ophthalmologists (eye surgeons). Cataract surgery is considered an option when the patient’s vision is bothersome and cannot be fixed with less invasive means.
In the US, the majority of cataract surgeries are done using a phacoemulsification machine (Phaco) and manual techniques (without a laser). Typically, surgery is done under light IV sedation and with additional topical numbing drops on the patient’s eye. The phaco handpiece is inserted into the eye through a small self-sealing incision (<3mm in size). The cataract is then removed from the eye using ultrasound energy. Next, a synthetic lens implant (IOL) is inserted into the eye where it will be held in place by the eyes natural structures. Surgery can often be performed safely in as little as 10 minutes and the patient is able to return home shortly after to let the healing process begin.
Our surgeons are happy to offer their patients the latest in modern day cataract surgery including laser assisted cataract surgery (LACS) and advanced technology IOLs.
Despite the amazing advances that have occurred with cataract surgery, no surgery is completely without risk. Your surgeon will fully discuss with you the risks, benefits, and alternatives to cataract surgery and answer any questions you have. Additional patient information is available online through the American Academy of Ophthalmology.