Although it is a common procedure, it is likely that you do not really know how a cataract operation is performed. In this article we explain both the surgical intervention, the prior and subsequent steps and some frequently asked questions about the procedure.
What are cataracts?
Cataracts are a condition affecting vision that form when the crystalline lens becomes opaque, or cloudy. The cause of this loss of transparency in the crystalline lens is linked to aging. However, there are other possible causes like trauma or a blow to the eye, diseases like diabetes, the prolonged use of corticosteroids, etc.
The appearance of cataracts supposes a gradual loss of visual acuity. Opacity of the lens inside the eye reduces the light passing through the lens and objects are no longer seen clearly. In addition, it usually presents other symptoms like difficulty performing everyday tasks like reading or driving, or seeing objects with less intensity of color.
Cataracts cannot be detected with the naked eye and consulting an ophthalmologist is necessary to get a diagnosis.
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure, so it is not necessary to spend the night in the hospital or be admitted to hospital the day before the operation.
The patient is awake throughout the procedure. Light sedation and local anesthesia are applied so there is no pain, so the patient is relaxed throughout the operation.
There are different types of surgical procedure, but they are now all minimally invasive, cause very little scarring and have a very short recovery time.
All types of cataract surgery have their objective in common: to remove the patient's damaged lens and replace it with a specially designed synthetic lens.
Types of cataract surgery
This type of operation usually takes about 15 or 20 minutes, the ophthalmological surgery team emulsifies the crystalline lens, or reduces it to a liquid, with an ultrasonic handpiece and the eye is aspirated to remove the debris. After aspiration of the intraocular fluid, it is replaced with a saline solution to maintain hydration. The substitute intraocular lens that replaces the crystalline lens is inserted into the eye with forceps or injectors, it is unfolded and does not require sutures.
Recovery is rapid and risks during the procedure and post-surgery period are minimal.
In this procedure, the incision on the edge of the cornea is larger than in phacoemulsification. Unlike the previous method, the lens is removed in one piece, hence the need for a larger incision.
The surgical team uses a laser to make the incisions and soften the cataract. The lens is broken up and the fragments removed by aspiration. It is a very similar method to that used in phacoemulsification. On some occasions, the use of a laser versus a scalpel may provide greater precision and reduce recovery times.
Recovery from all the different procedures is very similar. Rest is recommended in the hours after surgery, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops are prescribed and a series of measures to care for the eye(s) and some recommendations are given and can be summarized as:
- attend check-ups after cataract surgery
- follow instructions for application of eye drops
- monitor the operated eye, call the doctor in case of redness or pain
- do not drive until you are given medical discharge
- do not rub or touch the operated eye
- avoid sleeping on the side of the operated eye
- do not immerse your head in swimming pools or hot tubs to avoid infection
- do not apply makeup on or around the eye in the days after surgery
- do not lift weights or engaging in strenuous physical activity
- wear sunglasses to protect the eye from the sun
Frequently asked questions related to cataract surgery
- Does cataract surgery cure myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism?
Cataract surgery can resolve refractive errors depending on the type of intraocular lens chosen. If there are vision problems in addition to the cataracts, a lens may be included to correct other refractive conditions.
- How are they diagnosed?
Although there are symptoms that point to the formation of cataracts, to get an accurate diagnosis you must consult an ophthalmologist, who will perform a check-up that includes a slit lamp examination, an ophthalmoscopy and a complete ophthalmological check. Self-diagnosis can be misleading and delay detection of other serious eye conditions.
- How long does cataract surgery take?
Although each type of procedure varies slightly, all cataract surgeries are typically carried out in less than an hour, and often in less than 30 minutes. Depending on the visual health of the patient, they may take longer.
- What happens after surgery?
As it is an outpatient procedure, the post-surgery period is very simple. Recovery is at home and although in the first hours it is advisable to the patient be accompanied since their vision will be blurred. Little by little, the patient will recover visual acuity and gain be able to move around and do things alone.
The post-surgery period is painless, although there may be some irritation, itching or a sensation of dryness which will subside with the prescribed eye drops.
- How long does it take to get back to normal life again?
Getting back to driving, lifting weights or high-impact sports will take a few weeks. The ophthalmologist will determine when each patient is medically discharged. However, in a couple of days, clear, sharp vision will gradually recover, which will allow you to read again, distinguish faces and/or objects, etc.
Recovery after the operation occurs in a short period of time.
- What side effects can cataract surgery have?
Depending on the type of lenses that are implanted, halos can occur in the vision for a while, but they usually disappear. After surgery, it is common to suffer from some photophobia, sensitivity to light, which is solved by wearing sunglasses outdoors.
- What intraocular lenses are used?
Intraocular lenses for the correction of cataracts are made of synthetic materials which are biocompatible with the human eye. Depending on whether they are exclusively to correct cataracts or to correct other refractive errors, they may be phakic, toric, monofocal, bifocal or trifocal, etc.
In addition, depending on the characteristics of the patient, the ophthalmological surgery team will recommend one type or another.
- How long do I have to rest?
Resting for a few hours after the procedure is appropriate. However, people who have just had cataract surgery do not have to limit movement. What they should avoid is any sudden movements.
- Is vision fully recovered after the operation?
Rates of recovery of vision are very high. More than 80% of people operated state they can see as well as before developing cataracts. But, it must be taken into account, especially in the case of senile cataracts, that age can reduce visual acuity to a certain degree.
- Can cataract surgery be postponed?
An ideal situation is to treat cataracts definitively as soon as their symptoms become evident, since the condition will continue developing and there is no more effective treatment for cataracts than surgery. Postponing cataract surgery means that vision loss will get worse.
If you are looking for an experienced ophthalmology team, with extensive knowledge in cataract surgery, at Hospiten we are ready to advise you, analyze your case and propose the most convenient type of procedure based on your diagnosis and medical characteristics.
Fully recovering your quality of life is simple and painless. Request an appointment today and put an end to your cataract-linked vision problems.