WHAT ARE CATARACTS?
A cataract is a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. Cataracts are very common as you get older. In fact, more than half of all Americans age 80 or older either have cataracts or have had surgery to get rid of cataracts.
The good news is that surgery can get rid of cataracts. Cataract surgery is safe and corrects vision problems caused by cataracts. Your doctor will probably suggest cataract surgery if you have vision loss that gets in the way of everyday activities like reading, driving, or watching TV.
Cataracts are not a medical emergency, and you don’t need to rush to have surgery to remove them. Ask your doctor about the risks and benefits of cataract surgery to decide if you're ready for cataract surgery.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF CATARACTS?
You might not have any symptoms at first, when cataracts are mild. But as cataracts grow, they can cause changes in your vision.
For example, you may notice that:
Your vision is cloudy or blurry
Colors look faded
You can’t see well at night
Lamps, sunlight, or headlights seem too bright
You see a halo around lights
You see double
You have to change the prescription for your glasses often
These symptoms can be a sign of other eye problems, too. Be sure to talk to your eye doctor if you have any of these problems. Over time, cataracts can lead to vision loss.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING CATARACT SURGERY?
During surgery, the doctor will remove the cloudy lens from your eye and replace it with an artificial lens (called an intraocular lens). The surgery lasts less than 1 hour and is almost painless.
Usually, you will be awake during cataract surgery. You might notice lights or motion, but you won’t be able to see what your doctor is doing.
When you get this surgery, your doctor will:
Put numbing drops into your eye to keep you comfortable
Use tiny tools to cut into your eye and remove the lens
Place the new artificial lens in your eye
Right after surgery, you will rest in the recovery area outside the operating room for a little while. You will need a friend or family member to drive you home.
WHAT ARE MY INTRAOCULAR LENS OPTIONS?
Precise pre-operative measurements and technological advances in intraocular lens material and design have given us more options than ever before to achieve your vision goals.
Many patients choose a lens implant with the goal of reducing spectacle dependence after surgery. Some examples include:
Multifocal intraocular lens -- By providing the eye with multiple points of focus, you may be able to see objects in the distance and up close without changing your glasses.
Toric intraocular lens -- Achieve optimal clarity with a lens that neutralizes your corneal astigmatism.
Monovision -- Some patients prefer to use one eye for near work, and the other eye for distance, rather than using different pairs of glasses for different tasks.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER CATARACT SURGERY?
Your doctor will give you eye drops to help your eye heal and you may need to wear a special eye shield or glasses. You will need to avoid some activities for the first week, like touching your eye, bending over, or lifting heavy things.
Your eye may feel a bit itchy or uncomfortable and sensitive to light and touch. After 1 or 2 days, your eye should feel better.
Call your doctor if you notice any of these problems after surgery:
Bad pain that won’t go away even if you take medicine for it
Very red eyes
Flashes of light or a lot of floaters (specks) in your vision
Your vision may not improve immediately after surgery. It is normal to experience fluctuations in the vision the first week after surgery. Once your eye is completely healed, you might need a new prescription for glasses or contact lenses to see clearly.