Q & A with your Boulder, Colorado eye doctor
In a normal, healthy eye, the lens is transparent. When there is a cataract, the lens becomes cloudy. Consequently, cataracts can cause blurred vision, poor night vision, muted color vision, and increased glare around lights.
Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in the United States, with over 3.5 million cataract removals performed annually. To clear up any confusion about this widespread procedure, our Boulder, Colorado, put together the following list of questions and answers; read on.
When is cataract surgery recommended?
During the early stages of a cataract, the visual symptoms may be so mild that you aren’t bothered. Your doctor will just perform regular eye exams to monitor your condition. However, as the cataract progresses, the effects on your vision usually become more disruptive – to the point that many regular daily tasks become difficult. That’s when your eye doctor may recommend cataract surgery. If a cataract gets in the way of treating another eye problem, such as diabetic retinopathy or age-related macular degeneration, cataract surgery may also be advised.
What is cataract surgery?
When your ophthalmologist performs eye surgery to remove a cataract, the procedure involves removing the cloudy natural lens of your eye and replacing it with a clear, artificial intraocular lens. This outpatient procedure is often done with laser-assisted technology.
What risks are involved with cataract surgery?
In general, cataract removal is regarded as very safe. Complications are infrequent, and most can be treated successfully. (Note: if you have another ocular disease or a serious medical condition, your risk of complications is higher.)
Some possible risks are:
- Drooping eyelid
- Dislocation of artificial lens
- Retinal detachment
- Secondary cataract
- Loss of vision (rare)
What happens during cataract surgery?
When your eye doctor performs this eye surgery, you should expect the procedure to last about an hour or less. To begin, dilating eye drops will be inserted and you’ll receive a local anesthetic to numb the region. Sometimes, relaxing sedatives are also given.
During the surgery, the clouded lens will be taken out and a clear artificial lens will be implanted. There are a few different methods for removing cataracts, such as:
- Ultrasound waves to emulsify the cataract, which is then suctioned out
- Advanced lasers are used to make incisions, soften the cataract, and remove the cloudy lens
- Removing the lens intact through a large incision (called extracapsular cataract extraction); this procedure is done infrequently
Your eye doctor will determine the best technique for your cataract removal and intraocular lens implantation procedure.
What should you expect after cataract surgery?
After the procedure, your vision may initially be blurry as your eye heals. It’s also common to see colors as much brighter than you are used to because you are now viewing the world through a new, clear lens.
Itching and some minor discomfort are usual; it’s important not to push on or rub your eye. These symptoms typically disappear after a couple of days, and full healing usually occurs within two months. If you have a cataract in your other eye too, second cataract surgery is usually scheduled after the first eye has recuperated entirely.
For a few days following cataract removal, you may be instructed to apply eye drops or other medication to prevent infection, keep the eye pressure under control, and reduce any swelling. Also, you may need to wear a protective eye shield for a few days or while you sleep, as your eye recovers.
A day or two after your surgery, your doctor will probably perform an eye exam to monitor the healing. Eventually, your eye doctor will tell you when your eyes have recovered sufficiently for you to reach your final vision prescription for glasses.
What is posterior capsule opacification (PCO)?
This technical term is a formal way to describe a secondary cataract or “scar tissue,” which is a common complication of cataract surgery. It occurs when the back of the lens capsule (the part of your lens that was not removed during cataract surgery) becomes opaque or wrinkled, disturbing your clear vision. PCO can happen weeks, months, or years after the first surgery.
Treatment for PCO is relatively easy and efficient. It involves a quick procedure called YAG laser capsulotomy. In this outpatient surgery, your eye doctor will use a laser beam to cut a small hole in the clouded capsule, creating a path for light to pass through so you can enjoy clear vision.
How should you choose a cataract surgeon?
Choosing a cataract surgeon is the first step you need to take once your cataract significantly interferes with your ability to see. You need an eye surgeon who is qualified and has a high success rate.
Here are some tips on choosing a cataract surgeon who is right for you:
- Consult with your regular eye doctor, who may be able to refer you to an experienced, recommended eye surgeon in the Boulder, Colorado, area.
- Speak to family and friends who have already undergone cataract surgery. Word-of-mouth referrals are powerful – if a patient had a positive experience with their cataract surgeon, it’s worth a lot.
- Online research and reviews can be a good method for choosing a cataract surgeon near you.
- When you meet with any prospective surgeons, make sure you feel comfortable with the entire office staff. You want a team that’s professional, polite, and willing to take the time to provide information about the procedure and answer all your questions.
- Find out who performs eye exams following your cataract surgery. Will it be the surgeon or a different team member, and are you comfortable with the answer?
Do you have more questions about cataract surgery?
Our Boulder, Colorado, welcomes your questions and will be pleased to address any concerns you may have. For more info, call to book a consultation and eye exam at Gunbarrel Optometry.