Cataract surgery is a fairly common procedure to remove a cloudy lens, that is a cataract, from inside the eye to restore vision. The cloudy lens inside the eye is replaced with an artificial lens or intraocular lens (IOL). Cataracts generally occur as a natural aging process. However, they can also occur at birth (congenital) or caused by a drug, chemical, or physical injury. Cataracts may go unnoticed at the onset because the cloudiness presents gradually and vision is only mildly affected. Eventually, cataracts worsen and begin to impair vision and ultimately require cataract surgery.
Advanced Technologies for Cataract Surgery
At Fort Worth Eye Associates, Dr. H. William Ranelle and Dr. Ann Ranelle constantly strive to achieve outstanding vision results for each patient by understanding their individual needs and comfort. Fort Worth Eye Associates offers advanced technologies for choosing the appropriate lens implant and treatment plan for each patient.
Signs and Symptoms of Cataracts
Cataract symptoms often present so gradually that they go unnoticed for a time. Vision is not particularly affected during early onset of a cataract. Cloudy or foggy vision is the symptom most associated with cataracts, however other signs that may signal cataract formation include:
- Night vision difficulty
- Dim or blurred vision
- Glare or light sensitivity
- Difficulty reading small print
- Seeing light “halos”
- Colors appearing to fade or yellow
- Difficulty distinguishing color shades
- Double vision in one eye
- Frequent vision prescription change
How Cataracts Form
Cataracts form when, as we age, the lenses of our eyes (located behind the irises, or colored portion of the eyes) become thicker and less flexible causing eye tissue to break down and cloud the lenses. As light enters the eye, the lens produces images onto the retina at the back of the eye. As more of the eye tissue breaks down, the cloudiness (cataract) scatters the light entering the lens and the images become less sharp thus blurring vision.
Cataracts generally occur in both eyes at a similar but not identical rate, but in some cases, may affect only one eye. Because cataracts often develop at a slightly different pace, one eye may require cataract surgery before the procedure is necessary on the other eye. Typically, cataract surgeries for both eyes are not performed at the same time, but are scheduled a few weeks apart, correcting the more affected eye first.
Types of Cataracts
- Nuclear cataracts: Cataracts that affect the middle of the eye lens and characterized by increased nearsightedness at the onset, then a yellowing to browning of the lens that can make distinguishing color shades difficult.
- Posterior subcapsular cataracts: Cataracts that typically form at the back of the lens, interfering with the light’s path and usually causing reading difficulty, poor vision with bright light, and a halo or glare effect around lights at night
- Cortical cataracts: Cataracts in which streaks or wedges begin on the outer lens of the eye and progress to the center of the lens interfering with light entry and typically causing glare problems
- Congenital cataracts: Cataracts which are present at birth often due to prenatal infection in the mother or a congenital medical condition such as rubella, myotonic dystrophy, Lowe’s syndrome, or galactosemia
While cataracts are part of the aging process, there are other factors that may increase the risk of developing cataracts, including:
- Family history of cataracts
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- High blood pressure
- Frequent sunlight exposure
- Ionizing radiation exposure, such as x-rays or radiation therapy for cancer
- Prolonged use of certain medications, such as corticosteroids
- History of eye inflammation, injury, or surgery
Diagnosing and Treating Cataracts
Diagnosing cataracts will begin with having a routine ophthalmic exam. Your ophthalmologist can determine if you have cataracts during these tests, which may include:
- Visual acuity test (eye chart)
- Retinal exam: Involves dilating the eyes with special drops to determine the health of your retinas
- Slit-lamp exam: Magnifies the front portion of the eye to allow detection of abnormalities
If your doctor determines that cataracts are present, treatment will depend upon the severity of your vision symptoms. For mild cataracts, your doctor may take a watchful approach and recommend a reexamination at a later time to evaluate cataract progression. Very mild cataracts typically do not require surgery; only when the cloudy lenses adversely affect quality of life is surgery performed.
Having an up-to-date vision prescription and using bright lighting whenever possible will ease cataract symptoms early in the process, however, when vision problems become more noticeable and begin to interfere with daily activities, cataract surgery will be necessary to restore sharp vision.
Cataract Surgery in Adults
Cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed operations worldwide and is considered to be an extremely safe and effective outpatient procedure. During cataract surgery, your doctor will numb the eye with local anesthesia, remove the cloudy lens of the eye, and replace the lens with a clear artificial lens called an intraocular lens (IOL).
At Fort Worth Eye Associates, we offer several types of lens implants:
- Standard implant (monofocal lens): Common IOL that corrects vision in one area, usually distance. Vision will be unclouded, however, reading glasses may still need to be worn as they were before cataract development
- Premium implants (accommodative or multifocal lens): Revolutionary new IOL which uses the latest technology in correcting vision after cataract surgery. Premium implants allow both distance and near vision to be corrected and greatly reduce the need for eyeglasses. Fort Worth Eye Associates offers these premium intraocular lens options:
- Tecnis® Multifocal lens
- ReSTOR lens
Your doctor will assist you in choosing the appropriate intraocular lens implant that best suits your lifestyle and vision needs. All implants give you good distance vision, but the Crystalens®, TECNIS® Multifocal lens, and ReSTOR® lens implants give reading vision as well.
Cataract surgery is typically completed in less than an hour (including recovery), after which you are able to return home. After your cataract procedure, someone will need to drive you home and your doctor will supply sunglasses to protect your eyes during the ride.
Postoperative Recovery for Cataract Surgery
Postoperative recovery for cataract surgery usually takes just a few days, during which you may experience some mild eye discomfort. You will be given a protective shield for your eye which your doctor will instruct you when to remove and when to replace. The eye shield is generally used during sleep for several days. Vision may seem blurry when the eye shield is first removed. This distorted vision is normal while your eye becomes accustomed to the intraocular lens.
Some patients experience red or bloodshot eyes, which resolves quickly as the eye heals. Clear vision can return within several hours or may take 1-2 weeks to be completely restored. While you will probably feel able to return to normal activities shortly after your cataract surgery, you should follow these tips to expedite your recovery:
- Do not drive on the day of your cataract surgery
- Be careful not to bump into anything
- Avoid activities that put pressure on the eye (lifting heavy objects, bending down, strenuous activity, sneezing, vomiting)
- Do not rub the eye
- Avoid eye irritants, such as wind, dust, and smoke
- Do not swim or use a hot tub the first week after eye surgery
After your cataract surgery, your doctor will give you detailed postoperative instructions and answer any questions you may have, and you should feel free to contact our office with questions or concerns any time during your at-home recovery. A follow-up appointment will be scheduled after your cataract surgery to check on the progress of your healing, which is generally completed within 8 weeks.
If you are experiencing symptoms of cataracts or vision problems of any kind, contact our office for a complete eye evaluation. Our goal at Fort Worth Eye Associates is to achieve the best possible vision results for every patient through the use of advanced technology and by understanding the unique needs of each individual.