How is a cataract treated?

In the early stages of cataract development vision may be improved simply by a change in glasses prescription. In time as the cataract increases, blurred vision and other symptoms will not be relieved by glasses; therefore, surgery will become necessary to restore useful vision.

When should surgery be performed?

Cataract surgery should be considered when the cataract causes enough loss of vision to interfere with daily activities which are important to the patient. This may be reading, driving, work activities, or recreational activities such as golf or tennis. Thus, the patient can decide if and when to have surgery based on how the cataract affects his or her lifestyle.

Occasionally cataract surgery will be necessary to evaluate and treat other eye conditions, such as diabetic or other retinal diseases. Your ophthalmologist can help you with the decision about surgery under these circumstances. In some cases, patients with glaucoma might need earlier cataract surgery.

How is cataract surgery performed?

Cataract surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, usually with local anesthesia. The patient is awake but does not feel the procedure. Medications are frequently given by anesthesia staff to help the patient feel relaxed and comfortable. The procedure usually takes 15 to 20 minutes to perform, but there is additional preoperative and postoperative time. During the surgery the clouded natural lens of the eye typically is broken up and suctioned from the eye by a process called phacoemulsification. The clouded lens is then replaced with an intraocular lens implant in order to restore vision.

In some situations, a laser procedure will be done in conjunction with the surgical procedure to correct astigmatism and perform elements of the surgery with computer-guided precision.

How fast is the recovery from cataract surgery?

Most patients will start to notice improved vision in the operated eye the day after surgery. The full healing time, however, is approximately 4 weeks. Strenuous activity such as heavy lifting, swimming or activities which might lead to risk of a blow to the eye should be avoided for several weeks. On the other hand, most normal non-strenuous activities including bending, lifting, reading and driving can be resumed on the day after surgery. Individual factors, such as the severity of the cataract other pre-existing conditions affecting the eye may result in a slower recovery.

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