Cataract Extraction Cataract Removal

Overview & Description

A cataract is clouding or yellowing in the lens of the eye. The lens is a structure on the inside of the eye that allows people to focus. A cataract may result in fuzzy or blurry vision. If this occurs, the lens can be removed surgically. Usually, the lens is replaced with a firm, plastic lens implant. Other choices include the use of contact lenses or thick cataract eyeglasses to help take over the job of the missing lens.

While all three choices sharpen vision after surgery, cataract eyeglasses greatly enlarge images. This changes depth perception, which can lead to problems walking or doing many tasks. Some people find contact lenses irritating to the eyes or have trouble putting them in because of poor vision. These problems have made lens implants during cataract surgery the standard choice in most cases.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

People who find day-to-day living, hobbies or work difficult because of cataracts that reduce vision are good candidates for this procedure. If a person’s sight is only slightly affected, cataract surgery is often delayed until poor vision justifies the small risk of the operation. The type of lifestyle a person leads may also affect the timing of the surgery.

How is the procedure performed?

The surgery does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. First, an anesthetic is used to numb the eye. Many people are also given drugs injected into a vein to help them relax. A small cut is made on one edge of the cornea. This is the tough, clear cover over the front of the eye. The lens is then broken into small pieces manually or crushed into tiny pieces using special sound waves. These pieces are then removed from the eye.

If a lens implant is chosen, it is usually placed in the same area as the original lens. Occasionally, the lens implant is placed closer to the front of the eye than the original lens. Often, no stitches are needed to close the incision.

Preparation & Expectations

What happens right after the procedure?

A person is usually allowed to go home shortly after surgery. The surgeon will schedule several follow-up eye exams.

Home Care and Complications

What happens later at home?

Sometimes, an eye patch must be worn. Eye drops that contain antibiotics, such as tobramycin, and medicine to prevent swelling may be given. The use of these drops tapers off over the course of several weeks. Measurements for new glasses are taken as needed.

If there are no complications at the time of surgery, a person can usually return to normal activities within a week. He or she may resume driving when proper requirements for vision are met.

Successful cataract removal makes a person’s vision much sharper. This allows people to return to activities that had been limited or stopped due to poor vision before surgery. When people have no other problems with their eyes before the surgery, 20/20 vision is often achieved.

What are the potential complications after the procedure?

Potential problems are usually related to the surgery. They include:

  • bleeding in the eye
  • infection
  • implanting a new lens with the wrong strength
  • increased pressure inside the eye that causes glaucoma. This condition can cause a gradual loss of vision.
  • Fortunately, these complications are rare. Other possible problems might be linked to the drugs used to numb the eye or relax the person. The most serious complication is puncturing of the eyeball when giving the numbing medicine. This is very rare.

    Article type: xmedgeneral