What are Cataracts?
A cataract is a loss of transparency, or clouding, of the normal clear lens of the eye. As one ages, chemical changes occur in the lens that make it less transparent.
The loss of transparency many be so mild vision is hardly affected or so severe that no shapes or movements are seen, only light and dark. When the lens gets cloudy enough to obstruct vision to any significant degree, it is called a cataract. Glasses or contact lenses cannot sharpen your vision if a cataract is present. Your eye works a lot like a camera. Light rays focus through your lens on the retina, a layer of light sensitive cells at the back of the eye. Similar to film, the retina allows the image to be "seen" by the brain. But over time the lens can become cloudy and prevent light rays from passing clearly through the lens. This cloudy lens is called a cataract.
Reducing the amount of UV light exposure by wearing wide-brim hat and sunglasses may reduce your risk for developing a cataract but once developed there is no cure except to have the cataract surgically removed. The time to have the surgical procedure is when your vision is bad enough that it interferes with your lifestyle.
The most common cause of cataract is aging. Other causes include trauma, medications such as steroids, systemic diseases such as diabetes or prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light. Occasionally, babies are born with a cataract. The typical symptoms of a cataract formation is a slow, progressive, and painless decrease in vision. Other changes include: blurring of vision, glare, particularly at night; frequent eye glasses prescription change, a decrease in color intensity, a yellowing of images, and in rare cases, double vision.
Cataract Surgery is a very successful operation. One and half million people have this procedure done every every year and 95% have successful results. As with any surgical procedure, complications can occur during or after surgery and some are severe enough to limit vision. But in most cases, vision as well as quality of life, improves. Dr. Jeffries performs cataract surgery at the Arkansas Outpatient Eye Surgery Center in Fayetteville, AR.
Using the most up to date methods and instrumentation, cataract surgery is typically performed using a small incision phacoemulsification technique. This means that the cataract surgery is accomplished using the smallest possible incision, and removal of the lens material by using an ultrasonic probe.
There is a common misconception that cataract surgery is done using a laser. This is not the case, and has never been the case. Following proper dilation of the pupil and preparation of the surgical area using betadine or other cleansers, a topical anesthetic is administered to the surface of the eye. An incision of 2.5 to 3 millimeters in length is then created at the junction of the cornea (the clear domed structure on the front of the eye) and the sclera (the white part of the eye).
A mild sedative is used to help relax the patient before surgery; general anesthesia is typically not used. The surgery center requires the patient have someone drive the patient home after surgery and stay with them for the first 24 hours due to the anesthesia. They are not allowed to drive for 24 hours after surgery.
Once all of the cataract material has been removed, a folded intraocular lens specifically chosen by the surgeon to suit the patient's individual needs is then inserted through the incision and maneuvered into the lens capsule and then centered. Intraocular lenses cannot be felt or sensed in any way by the patient.
After Cataract Surgery
Recovery from cataract surgery is generally very quick, with most patients achieving noticeably better vision within the first 24 hours of the procedure. Patients are generally asked to use three different eye medications, administered as drops several times daily for the first few weeks after surgery. It is important that during the first 14 post-operative days, patients refrain from strenuous activity such as lifting weights for exercise or lifting anything over 15 lbs. No bending over at the waist for the first week is also recommended. Patients should refrain from eye rubbing and will be wearing a clear eye shield when sleeping at night for 2 weeks.
We see our patients back at Jeffries Eye Clinic the following day after cataract surgery. Most people are able to return to work after the first 48 hours, depending on the above restrictions and their job requirements.
If glasses are required following surgery to achieve the best possible vision either for close up work such as reading, or for distance purposes, these will be prescribed three weeks after surgery when full recovery is expected. If both eyes are scheduled to have surgery within a few weeks of each other, then glasses, if needed, will be prescribed following full recovery of the second eye.
At cataract evaluation and pre-operative visits, Dr. Jeffries will discuss lens options that are available. It is important to understand that there are no guarantees regarding cataract surgery outcome when having cataract surgery despite the best techniques and technology available today. Please review the Standard Monofocal, Premium Toric, and Premium Multifocal Intraocular Lens (IOL) choices.