In most cases, the development of cataracts is considered a normal process of aging, and a large majority of individuals over the age of 50 suffer from them. Surgery, which is the only definitive treatment for cataracts, should be considered when the cataracts get to a point where they are affecting a patient’s ability to see well enough to do the things they need or want to do.
Prior to cataract surgery, all patients have a pre-surgical evaluation with the cataract surgeon. There have been many advancements related to cataract surgery in the area of diagnostic testing and treatment, so it is helpful for prospective patients to understand what their options are before undergoing cataract surgery. This is the time to ask the cataract surgeon any questions about the procedure.
A detailed examination of the eye is done by the eye surgeon before the procedure is scheduled. This will include a detailed medical history, a full examination of each eye and a series of diagnostic tests. This information is essential to the surgeon in determining what options the patient has regarding the type of lens implant that is placed in the eye at the time of cataract surgery.
The patient may also be advised to see their primary care physician before the procedure to ensure that there is no medical condition that precludes them from having surgery. The physician will likely check blood glucose levels, blood pressure and the stability of any other conditions they are currently treating. The physician will also review any medications their patient is currently taking. Once the physician has cleared the patient for cataract surgery, the cataract surgeon will set a date for the procedure.
Cataract Lens choice
In the past, cataract surgery involved the placement of a conventional fixed focal length lens inside the eye. Although a conventional lens would allow the patient to see more clearly at a distance, if they were using eye glasses before the procedure, they would continue to use them afterward. Now, however, advanced lens implants are available, to qualified patients. These lenses can sometimes rid the patient of the need for prescription lenses or bifocals.
Additional diagnostic testing will be required for patients who choose an advanced lens implant in order to make sure they receive the optimal outcome. Feedback from patients who have elected to receive advanced lenses has been overwhelmingly positive. It should be noted however that these lenses are considerably more expensive than conventional lenses and are not covered by most insurance policies.
The Night before Cataract Surgery
It is important for every patient to follow all of the instructions their eye care professional gives them prior to surgery. This may include using medication or eye drops before surgery to prevent infection. They may also advise against any eating or alcohol intake for up to 4 hours prior to surgery. If you are on other medications, the doctor may slightly alter the times these medications should be taken.
It is important to get a good night’s rest before the procedure. While feeling a little anxious about the surgery is perfectly normal, remember that this is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in the eye and that your surgeon will have performed thousands of such procedures.
Arrange for someone to pick you up after the procedure since you will not be able to drive home on your own. If employed, you should plan to take a couple of days off of work to allow for adequate recovery after the procedure.
The Day of Cataract Surgery
Get up early and dress for your appointment in loose, comfortable clothing. Try to be at least an hour early for your appointment. This will help alleviate any unnecessary stress prior to your surgery and allow you to ask any last minute questions you may have and complete any final paperwork.
It is important not to wear make-up the day of your surgery so the area around the eye can be as clean as possible. Avoid eating or drinking based on the pre-operative instructions that you are given. If possible, have someone in the waiting area during your surgery so you are not waiting for a ride home after your procedure.
The entire procedure, from the time you check in, to completion of your procedure and check-out, should not take more than a few hours.
After the Procedure
People who have had cataract surgery have varying accounts of their experience but some of the common things that one can expect include; a feeling of grogginess due to the anesthesia, a mild amount of discomfort, and some itching and redness as well as a little fluid discharge from the eye.
A follow-up appointment will be required the day after surgery. Your eye doctor will perform a post-operative examination to verify that your eye is healing well and recovering properly. It will be necessary for you to have a ride to and from this appointment. Most patients notice some sensitivity to light after surgery and should wear their provided protective eyewear while outside.
About the Author
Dr. Joan Abernethy is a board-certified ophthalmologist in Fort Worth, TX. She has been in private practice since 2001 and joined Nethery Eye Associates in 2011. Dr. Abernethy specializes in cataract surgery, glaucoma implants and laser treatments, and provides general ophthalmic care.