Cataracts (Corneal Clouding)


Cataracts are the leading cause of vision loss or reduction in the United States. It is not a film over your eye or lens, though it may appear to be. It can't be removed or reduced with eyedrops or a laser, and surgery is the only way to treat the problem. Surgery usually involves two steps: 1) removal of the clouded lens by phacoemulsification or extracapsular extraction, and 2) a clear intraocular lens is implanted into the posterior chamber or anterior chamber of the eye.

Occasionally, the posterior capsule may become clouded weeks or years after the initial cataract surgery. A laser can be used to created an opening in the capsule, allowing light to enter without clouding. This is a reliable procedure and takes only a few minutes; you can normally go home within an hour after treatment.

The surgery to remove cataracts is usually painless, and lasts about an hour. Performed in a hospital, surgical center or clinic, surgery is done on one eye at a time under anesthetic.

Your Surgical Experience

1)  Before surgery:

    * an A-scan is done to determine the strength of the new IOL.
    * eyedrops are prescribed one or two days before the procedure
    * blood tests may be done in advance or on the day of surgery
    * do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery
    * eyedrops will be given to you to dilate your pupils prior to surgery

2)  During surgery:

    * an IV anesthetic is started; you may also be given a local, topical or general anesthetic
    * the surgical team includes your ophthalmologist, nurses, technicians, anesthesiologist, nurse anesthetist
    * the surgery is performed with delicate instruments, special microscopes and lights

3)  After surgery:

    * a patch and eye shield are placed over the operated eye to protect it and allow it to heal
    * in the recovery room, blood pressure is monitored
    * you will rest until you feel ready to leave
    * due to sleepiness and change in reflexes from effects of the anesthetic, please arrange in advance for transportation and accompaniment home

4)  Recovery:

    * your eye may be red and sensitive; full recovery takes 4 to 8 weeks
    * Do's
         1. Do kneel to pick things up, rather than bending at the waist, which can increase pressure on your eye
         2. Do lift up feet to put on shoes, again to prevent bending
         3. Do take walks, climb stairs carefully and do light household chores
         4. Do use medications as directed
         5. Do wear an eye shield or glasses at all times
         6. Do keep follow-up appointments with the ophthalmologist
         7. Do call immediately if there is increased blurriness, redness, swelling, flashes of light, or pain -- do not wait until your next scheduled visit
    * Don'ts
         1. Don't lift heavy objects (over 25 lb.), as this will increase pressure to the eyes
         2. Don't rub or press your eyes
         3. Don't shampoo until the ophthalmologist recommends it
         4. Don't drive until the ophthalmologist recommends it
    * you will probably need new glasses after recovery is complete.