What is a Cataract?
A cataract is an eye condition where otherwise a healthy eye lens becomes foggy and blurry. One with a cataract would normally complain of double vision, sensitivity to bright light, poor night vision, sudden near-sightedness, etc.
For one to see clearly, light has to pass through the lens that is behind the iris or the colored part of the eye. The lens focuses the light so that the brain and eye can work in tandem.
Does Cataract Surgery Help In Vision Improvement?
However, when a cataract develops and clouds the lens, the focusing gets affected – leading to blurry or loss of vision. The size and the location of the cataract decide the extent to which the vision loss takes place.
Cataracts are not painful but they definitely cause a lot of discomforts unless treated.
Mild cataracts may be treated with a prescription for glasses with new power by a licensed ophthalmologist. However, if left undiagnosed over a long period of time, the doctor most likely will recommend the removal of the cataract through surgery.
Who is most prone to developing cataracts?
- Some babies are born with congenital defects in the eye. However, this is extremely rare.
- Those living in areas with poor air quality, heavily polluted zones.
- It normally gets detected in older people above 60 years of age.
- Diabetic patients.
- Those who are on heavy steroids and drugs for various medical reasons. Arthritis, Schizophrenia, and bipolar disorders are some such medical conditions.
- Those with eye injuries or even surgeries.
- Those exposed to radiation.
- Those who routinely spend a lot of time in the sun without proper eye gears.
The most important question here is: Does Cataract Surgery Improve Vision?
The answer is ‘Yes. In the majority of cases, cataract surgery would successfully restore lost vision in patients. However, those who have once developed cataracts are most likely to develop a second one even after the eye procedure. The medical term for this common eye complication is posterior capsule opacification.
Cataract eye procedure involves replacing the natural lens with an artificial one that helps to restore clarity of vision.
Prior to the surgery, the ophthalmologist takes the precise measurement of the size and shape of the eye. This is done to determine the most appropriate (new) lens, also called the IOL.
Again, the doctor will also make an exact calculation of the refractive error of the eye to attribute correct power to the IOL. An accurate calculation of refractive error of the patient’s eye can help him to achieve a 20/20 vision that he (the patient) can anticipate post-surgery.
There are different types of IOL for different types of refractive errors. In some, one would typically require reading glasses for near vision; whilst in others, IOL enables clear vision for near, intermediate, and distant objects.
The patient never gets to see or feel the plastic or silicone IOL that is implanted permanently in the eye.
The new lens is personalized to vision needs.
The duration of the eye procedure is no more than an hour and is done with local anesthesia to numb the area.
The surgery requires the ophthalmologist to make a small opening in the clouded eye lens; he/she uses a laser to break the lens into pieces.
He then suctions out the natural lens fragments from the eye and puts in a new plastic lens. In advanced cataracts, the doctor may make a larger opening in the eye and instead of breaking the lens into fragments, he may choose to remove it completely. The surgeon then inserts the artificial one/s.
After the surgery, the patient will be given a few don’ts to follow to accelerate recovery. Mild discomfort and watery eyes, or even sensitivity to light are common after surgery.
However, it is recommended not to touch the eye frequently, lift heavy objects, or put the eye under any undue pressure during the recovery stage.
Normally, it takes 8 weeks for the eye to heal completely post-surgery, but one can go about doing one’s daily chores (under someone’s supervision though) right after he is discharged from the hospital.
Cataract surgery is completely safe and chances of developing later complications are also low.
Vision gradually gets restored in the first few weeks. Nine out of ten people see better after cataract removal. The lens implants for cataracts are permanent and they don’t need replacement in the future.
In case of a secondary cataract, the doctor may treat it with a quick laser surgery that lasts for hardly 5 minutes. Vision improves within 24 hours.
One is best advised to act discretely in matters of the eye and should not procrastinate till vision gets permanently impaired. A registered ophthalmologist is the best person to take advice from, in case of eye emergencies.
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Amanda Wingfield is a certified Diabetes Management Specialist who also holds an MD in Endocrinology, with certifications from ABIM and AACE. She has a decade of experience serving thousands of patients through her independent practice and has been working in the capacity of an expert diabetes consultant for the past 4 years. Ms. Wingfield is revered by her regular readers for her in-depth research and evidence-based analysis of diabetes medications, supplements, and treatments, and her highly critical style of writing.