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What To Expect During Cataract Eye Surgery

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Cataract eye surgery is a procedure during which an ophthalmologist removes the lens of your eye and replaces it with an artificial lens. This type of surgery treats cataracts, cloudy spots in the normally clear lens of your eye, to improve your vision. Cataracts can cause blurry vision and increase the glare from lights, which can make it extremely difficult to carry out normal daily activities. Ophthalmologists usually recommend cataract eye surgery when cataracts interfere with the treatment of another eye problem, such as macular degeneration, since a cataract makes it difficult for your eye doctor to examine the back of your eye to monitor for other eye problems. Determining whether you need eye surgery for cataracts is a decision you should leave to your ophthalmologist, but it can also help to know some signs to look for that may indicate you are a good surgery candidate.

Determining Whether You Need Cataract Eye Surgery

When deciding whether you may benefit from cataract eye surgery, you should ask yourself the following questions:

  • Can you see clearly enough to do your job and drive safely?
  • Do you have problems reading or watching television?
  • Do you have a difficult time cooking, shopping, doing yard work, climbing stairs, or taking medications?
  • Do your vision problems affect your level of independence?
  • Do you have difficulty distinguishing faces clearly?
  • Do bright lights make it more difficult for you to see clearly?

The Process of Cataract Eye Surgery

Cataract eye surgery is usually an outpatient procedure that takes an hour or less for a surgeon to perform and occurs under local anesthetics and sedatives to help you relax. During the surgery, an ophthalmologist removes the clouded lens from your eye and replaces it with a clear, artificial lens. However, in some cases the surgeon may remove a cataract without implanting an artificial lens. Following are two of the main methods surgeons use to remove cataracts from your eye:

  • Use an ultrasound probe to break up the lens and remove it: during a procedure known as phacoemulsification, an ophthalmologic surgeon makes a tiny incision in the front of your eye and inserts a thin probe, which transmits sound waves, to break up the cataract and suction the fragments out of your eye. The surgeon leaves the back of your lens in place to provide a place for the artificial lens to rest.
  • Make an incision in your eye and remove its lens: a less common procedure, called extracapsular cataract extraction, occurs when a surgeon makes a larger incision in your eye and uses surgical tools to remove the cloudy portion of your lens and suctioning tools to remove the rest of the lens. The surgeon also leaves the back of your lens in place during this procedure.

Cataract eye surgery is an outpatient procedure that corrects your vision by removing cloudy portions of your lens in one or both eyes. If you have cataracts and think you may be a good candidate for surgery, you should contact an ophthalmologist, as he or she can provide you with an accurate diagnosis and determine whether eye surgery is right for you.

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