If your vision has gotten blurry or cloudy due to cataracts, you may be wondering, “How does cataract surgery work?” Cataracts are a common condition in older adults that results in the clouding of the eye. Although it may feel like a film has formed over your eye, it’s actually the buildup of proteins preventing light from reaching through to your retina.
The good news is, cataracts can be surgically removed, and new lenses can be inserted with a short outpatient procedure that’s relatively pain-free. It’s a safe, effective solution that can reduce dependence on glasses. But exactly how does cataract surgery work? Let’s find out.
Common symptoms of cataracts
Before we dive more deeply into answering the question, “How does cataract surgery work?” it’s important to discuss whether or not you may actually have a cataract. No list of symptoms can replace the evaluation of a doctor, but common symptoms of cataracts can include:
- Cloudy, blurred, or dim vision
- Sensitivity to light and glare, even during the day
- Poor night vision or trouble driving at night
- Colors seem dull or less vibrant
- Double vision in one eye
- Your glasses or contacts don’t help your vision, despite regular checkups
Just discovered that you have a cataract? Check out our guides to knowing when to have cataract surgery and cataract stages in pictures.
Cataract surgery lens options
Prior to surgery, you’ll have a choice of artificial lenses. The most commonly chosen lens is the monofocal lens, which can restore near-perfect vision, but only at a single set distance: near, intermediate, or far. The multifocal lens can correct for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and presbyopia, with 80% of patients going glasses-free post-recovery. For those affected by astigmatism, the astigmatism-correcting lens offers clear, sharp distance vision along with reduced dependency on glasses.
How to prepare for cataract surgery
Depending on where you go for your procedure, your doctor may ask you to use prescription antibiotic eye drops 1-2 days before the procedure. You may also be asked not to eat or drink anything for up to 12 hours before the procedure.
Your doctor should also ask you about any current medications you are taking to ensure that these medications do not carry the risk of interfering with the procedure.
Most patients ask for 1-2 days off of work. Some enlist childcare. If you do not plan on having someone to look after you as you recover, you may wish to pre-plan your meals so that you can avoid cooking.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, but Eye Center of Texas does not allow patients to drive post-op, as the sedative medications used during the procedure can impair driving abilities. All of our patients are required to secure a ride home with a trusted friend or family member, NOT a rideshare.
How is cataract surgery performed?
There are two main types of cataract surgery performed today — traditional and laser. Both types of cataract surgeries achieve the same basic goal, but their approaches differ.
In traditional cataract surgery, your surgeon creates an incision in your cornea using a blade, then uses ultrasound waves to break up the cloudy lens. Afterwards, the surgeon then removes those pieces and inserts a clear, artificial lens in its place.
Laser surgery reduces the need for handheld tools such as blades. Your surgeon will use a camera to map the surface of your eye, then a femtosecond laser to break up the cloudy lens and create a precise incision in your cornea. The surgeon will then suction out the cloudy pieces and insert your new artificial lens. The whole process typically takes less than an hour.
Cataract surgery: laser vs. traditional
When weighing laser cataract surgery vs. traditional, many people wonder whether there is a benefit to pursuing one option over the other. Research points to additional benefits from the laser surgery approach. Laser-assisted surgeries have greater accuracy and precision and are less likely to burn the corneal incision. The surgeons at Eye Center of Texas are some of the leading laser cataract surgeons in the nation!
Been putting off cataract surgery? Worried you’ve waited too long? Check out our article: “Can You Wait Too Long to Have Cataract Surgery?”
Are you awake during cataract surgery?
This question and some variation of “How painful is cataract surgery?” are some of the most common that we receive with regard to this procedure. And we understand the concern! Fortunately, the answers to such questions bear good news.
While patients are typically awake during cataract surgery, they will have received either oral or intravenous sedatives so that they remain calm. It’s actually much safer for the patient to be awake during the procedure. That way, surgeons can communicate with the patient if necessary. Meanwhile, the eye(s) will be numbed so that you will experience no pain. The only sensation patients typically experience during cataract surgery is a feeling of pressure.
Because of the medication, many patients don’t even remember having undergone the procedure.
What is the recovery time for cataract surgery?
Of course, every person’s recovery timeline looks different, but recovery time for cataract surgery typically runs between 24-48 hours. There are some activities, such as swimming, that you should avoid for longer. (For more information, please see our guide to activities to avoid during cataract surgery recovery time.)
Most surgery patients return to work in one to three days. Full recovery typically takes around eight weeks.
Your doctor will schedule a series of follow-up appointments after the procedure: one for 1-2 days post-op, one a week after surgery, and one about a month after the procedure.
It is normal for patients to experience vision blurriness or mild discomfort, such as itchiness, after cataract surgery but this typically clears up in a few days. Complications are rare, but contact your doctor ASAP if you experience swelling of your eyelids, persistent pain, sudden vision loss, or light flashes.
Contact Eye Center of Texas to discuss your cataract treatment options
If you’re wondering, “How does cataract surgery work?” you are not alone. In the U.S., more than 24 million people over the age of 40 are affected, and more than three million cataract surgeries are performed in the U.S. every year.
Houston’s leading cataract surgeons have performed more than 80,000 successful surgeries at Eye Center of Texas, helping people of all ages and abilities see clearly again. To learn more about our LenSx Laser cataract surgery or request an appointment, call 713-797-1010 or contact us online today.
More Helpful Articles by Eye Center of Texas: