At ICON Eyecare, we want our patients to be fully informed about what cataracts are and how they can be treated. Below, we answer some frequently asked questions about this condition and the therapies that can help patients regain sharp eyesight.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are cataracts?
As we age, the proteins that make up the lenses of our eyes break down and form clusters, which causes our natural lens to become cloudy and hazy over time.
How are cataracts treated?
At this time, surgery is the only cure for cataracts. However, in the short term, your doctor may suggest you submit to regular eye exams and correct your vision with a stronger eyeglass or contact lens prescription in lieu of cataract surgery. In these cases, your doctor will only recommend surgery once your cataracts compromise your quality of life and ability to perform everyday tasks like reading, watching television, and driving at night
Some patients may need cataract surgery if they suffer from age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy. By having surgery even if your cataracts have yet to affect your eyesight, you will be able to receive treatment for these more serious conditions sooner.
What are the symptoms of cataracts?
Cataracts progress so slowly that most people don’t realize they have the condition until its later stages. When symptoms become more pronounced, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, and/or “halos” around bright lights (especially at night) are common. Other symptoms include double vision, a faded or yellowish hue to bright colors, and the need to frequently adjust your eyeglass prescription.
What does cataract surgery entail?
An eye surgeon numbs the nerves in and around your eye with a local anesthetic. Then, after making a small incision, the surgeon removes the cataract-clouded lens and replaces it with a new intraocular lens made of plastic, silicone, or acrylic. The incision is then closed, concluding an outpatient operation that typically takes under 15 minutes. Over the course of the recovery process, the intraocular lens fuses with the eye and becomes a permanent part of the eye’s structure.
Will my vision return to normal?
Patients can choose from a variety of options that could reduce your need for glasses. Depending on the type of option you select, you may still need to wear glasses after surgery. That said, whichever option you select, your vision will be clearer and brighter after cataract surgery.
Can Cataracts Recur?
The short answer is no. However, some patients report experiencing blurry vision reminiscent of their preoperative vision years after cataract surgery. These “secondary cataracts” occur when scar tissue forms around the lens capsule that holds replacement lenses in place. Undergoing a simple outpatient procedure known as a YAG laser capsulotomy can resolve this issue.
Is cataract surgery safe?
The procedure ranks among the safest medical treatments available for vision correction, and more than 3 million cataract surgeries are performed in the United States every year. As with any surgery, there is a risk of bleeding and infection, and more serious complications like retinal detachment are possible, but rare. Your doctor will go over the possible risks prior to the operation.
How long does it take to recover from cataract surgery?
A full recovery from cataract surgery typically takes about four weeks. Immediately after your surgery, your vision will be blurry as a result of your eye adjusting to the replacement lens. In our dry climate here, dry eye can cause blurring of vision and discomfort after cataract surgery, and it is critical that proper dry eye care be followed. Talk with your doctor about what dry eye care you may need.
Generally our guidelines are that you should avoid lifting over 10-15 pounds for a week and avoid pools/hot tubs for a week. Further, you may only resume driving after you get your doctor’s permission to do so. If you experience severe pain or don’t believe your recovery is progressing on schedule, contact your eye care specialist immediately.