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A cataract is a clouding of the natural lens of the eye. Light enters the eye and is focused through the front structures onto the retina, the seeing tissue which lines the back of the eye. Near the front of the eye is the lens. The lens is solid with a clear outer covering like a piece of plastic wrap. The lens can become cloudy causing blurring, glare or halos around lights. The change of the lens from clear to cloudy is a cataract.
A cataract is a common condition and affects millions of people per year, including more than half of all Americans over the age of 65. Cataracts cause a progressive, painless loss of vision. Patients with cataracts often do not experience any symptoms when the condition first develops. Cataracts will continue to progress with no apparent pain, although patients may experience:
Blurred or hazy vision
Poor vision in bright light
Seeing halos around lights
Poor vision at night
Yellowish tinged vision
Frequent changes in eyeglasses or contact lens prescription
The first treatment for a cataract is a change in glasses. When glasses are no longer able to provide adequate vision for what you need or want to do – such as driving, reading or watching television – the cataract can be removed and replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens implant. Cataract surgery is the most commonly performed surgical procedure in the US, and can be performed quickly and easily with a success rate of over 99 percent and a minimal risk of complications.
Cataract surgery is a minimally invasive procedure performed at an outpatient surgical center. During the procedure, the eye will be numbed with a topical (eye drop) anesthetic and a twilight sedative will be given to induce relaxation. The surgery involves making a tiny incision into which an ultrasonic probe is inserted. The probe breaks up, or emulsifies, the cloudy lens into tiny pieces and then suctions them out of the eye. Once the cloudy lens has been removed, a new artificial lens is implanted into the eye. This lens is known as an intraocular lens (IOL), and can often be inserted through the same incision that the old lens was removed from.
The surgery usually takes 12 to 15 minutes and there is no stitching or patching of the eye. It is painless for most patients. The total time at the surgical center is approximately two hours. Vision will be blurry the first day and you cannot drive on the day of surgery but you may drive on the day after surgery if you feel that the vision is adequate. For work purposes, you need to be off on the day of surgery and until after you see the doctor for your first post-operative visit one or two days following surgery. After that, you may return to work unless you work in an area where you are exposed to dust, dirt or fumes. In that case, you should be off work for one week. You will be using eye drops according to the instructions for one month after surgery or according to special instructions by your surgeon.
Monofocal Intraocular Lens
A standard monofocal intraocular lens implant has a single-focus optic, and generally the vision is corrected for distance. The patient then wears glasses for reading, computer and other near activities and may need glasses to correct any residual refractive error – astigmatism, nearsightedness or farsightedness. This is a covered service by your insurance company.
Advanced technology intraocular lenses, including toric and multifocal IOLs, laser cataract surgery and monovision are now available which decrease spectacle dependence after surgery. These are advanced options to customize your vision based on your lifestyle needs and are not covered services. You would be responsible for the costs of the non-covered services if you choose any of these options.
After completion of your examination, the doctor will advise you which options would be available and recommended for you.
Read our Booklet: Cataract Surgery: What to Expect