The numbers on this surgical procedure make it one of the most common types of eye procedures along with laser-assisted in situ keratomileuses, or LASIK. According to the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery, three million Americans get the eye cataract surgery procedure done every year. Globally, Eyewire News estimates that there were approximately 26 million cataract surgeries performed in the year 2017.
What are cataracts?
The normal, healthy lens is clear. Cataracts cloud the lens and cause vision to become blurry as if one is looking from inside a car with fogged up windows. Cataracts are common among elderly people. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), over half of all individuals in the United States aged 80 and older either currently suffer from cataracts or already went under the knife to get them removed.
In the early stages, cataracts may not affect your vision at all. You may not notice that you have them until they turn your vision hazy, blurry, or less colorful. Due to those factors, you may experience difficulties in reading or engaging in daily activities.
With how prevalent they are, it is a good thing that there is a surgical procedure that can remove them.
What ages are affected?
Cataracts start to develop around middle age and into ages 65 to 80. The NEI found that individuals can start to develop eye cataracts in their 40s and 50s. However, cataracts may not have a noticeable impact on their eyesight until well into their 60s.
A study led by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in collaboration with Mayo Clinic found that cataract surgeries in Olmsted County, Minnesota performed between the years 2005 and 2011 were done on individuals younger than 65. The same study also found that only one to two percent of cataract surgeries were performed on patients in their early 40s.
When do you need to undergo surgery?
Your physician would recommend you undergo surgery to remove cataracts if you start to report that you are experiencing loss of clear vision that prevents you from doing daily activities such as reading, driving, or watching TV properly.
There are also circumstances wherein your doctor may recommend cataract surgery even if cataracts are not the main reason behind the vision problems you are having. Doctors might suggest you go on the table for the removal of the cataract, so they can examine the other parts of your eye that are obstructed by cataracts.
If you have another eye condition that coexists with cataracts, such as diabetic retinopathy or age-related macular degeneration, your doctor will need to examine the back of your eye, so they will know what steps to take.
What transpires during the surgery?
During the surgery, the surgeon will cut through your affected eye lens to extract it for replacement with an artificial lens. The procedure lasts about an hour and the process is nearly painless.
In most cases, the patient is awake during the surgery. Your eyes might recognize lights and you can sense motion but there are no chances that you will witness the procedure itself.
Here is what the doctor will do during the operation:
- Apply proparacaine to your affected eye to prevent you from feeling anything
- Use small tools to make incisions in your eye, break up the lens, and remove it
- Replace the affected lens with artificial or interocular ones
What are the effects?
The doctor will brief you on how to care for your operated eye after the surgery. They will advise you to use post-surgery eye drops to speed up healing and to wear special eye shields or glasses for protection. Your doctor will advise you to refrain from doing strenuous activities until your eye fully heals.
You might get the tendency to scratch or touch your eye after the operation, but your doctor will advise you against it because you will risk getting an infection.
Most individuals who underwent cataract surgery healed eight weeks after the procedure. The top cataract surgeons will provide you with the best postoperative care to ensure that you heal properly and reap the benefits of the surgery.
What happens to your vision?
According to NEI, about nine out of ten people who undergo cataract surgery had a better vision after. However, it is inevitable for your vision to be blurry while your eye recovers.
Colors will also look brighter because the lens that was removed and replaced with the artificial one had a yellow or brown hue from the cataract.
Are there risks?
Being one of the most common eye procedures, eye cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective types of surgical procedures in the U.S., according to NEI.
However, no surgery comes without risks. Here are some possible side effects of the procedure:
- Changes in eye pressure
- Retinal detachment
- Secondary cataract
The best way to address these effects is to consult your doctor right away. Assure that you attend all pre- and postoperative consultations with your doctor so you know what you will be getting into.