Cataract is clouding of the lens inside the eye, which causes loss of vision that cannot be fixed by glasses, contact lenses or corneal refractive surgery like LASIK. Most cataracts are associated with the aging process and are common among old people. However modern cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgical procedures today for the treatment of cataract.
In the cataract surgery, the lens inside the eye which has become cloudy is detached and replaced with an artificial lens (called an intraocular lens, or IOL) to restore the clear vision. This procedure is performed on an outpatient basis and does not require an overnight stay in a hospital or other care facility. Most modern cataract procedures involve the use of a high-frequency ultrasound device that breaks up the cloudy lens into small pieces, which are then gently removed from the eye with suction. This procedure is known as phacoemulsification or "phaco," and can be performed with smaller incisions than previous surgical techniques for cataract removal, promoting faster healing and reducing the risk of cataract surgery complications, such as a retinal detachment.
After all remnants of the cloudy lens have been detached from the eye, the cataract surgeon inserts a clear intraocular lens, positioning it securely behind the iris and pupil, in the same location your natural lens occupied. (In special cases, an IOL might be placed in front of the iris and pupil, but this is less common.)
The surgeon then completes the cataract removal and IOL implantation procedure by closing the incision in the eye (a stitch may or may not be needed), and a protective shield is placed over the eye to keep it safe in the early stages of the cataract surgery recovery.
Prior to cataract surgery, the optometrist and/or ophthalmologist will perform a comprehensive eye exam to check the overall health of eyes, evaluate whether there are reasons why surgery should not occur and identify any risk factors that may occur.
A refraction also will be performed to accurately determine the amount of nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatismone have prior to surgery. Additional measurements of eyes will be taken to determine the curvature of cornea and the length of eye.
These measurements are essential to help cataract surgeon select the proper power of the intraocular lens and give the best vision possible after surgery.
Today many types of IOLs are available to choose from for your cataract surgery, depending on your specific needs. In addition to IOLs that help to correct nearsightedness and farsightedness, there are now toric IOLs that correct astigmatism as well.
If wearing glasses after cataract surgery is comfortable, a monofocal lens implant usually is used. Only part-time use of reading glasses might be needed after cataract surgery with monofocal IOLs. But if prescription eyeglasses are needed (which often is the case if you only need cataract surgery in one eye), your surgeon typically prescribes new glasses approximately one month after surgery.
Be aware that everyone is not a good candidate for these premium IOLs, and choosing a presbyopia-correcting IOL will increase the cost of your cataract surgery, since the added cost of these advanced lens implants is usually not covered by Medical or other insurance plans.
Prior to cataract surgery, in addition to discussing the different types of IOLs, it would be advisable to know about expectations before, during and after your procedure. This information — which may be presented orally, in writing, or via a video presentation or a combination of all three — is meant to help you make an informed decision about whether to proceed with surgery.