Cataract surgery is a medical procedure in which the crystalline (the eye’s natural lens) is removed, after having developed opacity. In time, the crystalline is affected by the changes in our metabolisms and its fibers become more opaque; this lack of transparency causes either impairment or loss of vision. In the initial stage of cataract, the patient will feel like certain lights are too strong, including at night and the visual acuity will be diminished. The loss of vision appears gradually and, if surgery is not performed, that loss will become permanent.
In order to restore the vision in the eye affected by the cataract, surgery will need to be performed. The crystalline that has lost its transparency will be removed and it will be replaced by a synthetic lens. This is an outpatient routine surgical procedure performed by an ophthalmology surgeon, using local anesthesia and the patient feels little or not discomfort during the procedure. This procedure has a high success rate, restoring the lost vision in the eye and very few complications, given the fact that it is minimally invasive and it does not require extensive recovery.
What are cataracts?
As it was already mentioned, the term cataract is used to describe the opacity of the eye’s natural lens that occurs in one or both eyes. Throughout the entire world, this is the number one cause that leads to blindness. The mechanism is simple. The clouding of the lens prevents light from coming in, resulting in loss of vision. Cataract is often a consequence of aging, as not only the crystalline fibers lose their quality but also pigment is deposited in the said lens. When these two things happen, the transmission of light into the eye is obstructed.
Cataract can severely affect a person’s quality of life. As the visual acuity decreases, that person will have difficulties when it comes to distinguishing colors and any contrast changes. Daily activities, such as driving a car, reading a book or even recognizing the faces of family and friends are going to be affected as the loss of vision becomes more severe. Bright lights are going to represent a great source of disturbance as well. In such situations, the most common course of treatment is cataract surgery and the results are exactly what the patient would expect, meaning vision restoring.
What to expect after cataract surgery?
Cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure and it lasts somewhere around an hour. After the surgery, most patients notice an improvement in their vision after a couple of days. At first, the vision might be blurry, as the eye needs to adapt to the new synthetic lens and also to heal. You will be required to visit the doctor for several follow-ups, two days after the surgery, after one week and then after one month. In the first days after the surgery, you will probably feel itchy and experience some mild discomfort in the area, but these symptoms are normal as the eye heals. Try to refrain from rubbing or pushing the eye, as you might dislodge the recently applied crystalline.
In order to protect the site of the operation from infection, the doctor will probably recommended that you wear an eye patch. This is recommended to be worn at night as well, guaranteeing the best recovery from the surgery. A post-operative treatment in the form of eye drops will be administered against possible sources of infection but also to reduce the inflammation and the increased eye pressure that may appear after the surgery. These symptoms disappear usually in the first days after the surgery but the complete healing process takes about two months.
Cost of Cataract Surgery
When it comes to the cost of cataract surgery, there are several factors that you need to take into consideration. Two of the most important factors are the type of surgery (instruments or technology used can differ from one type to the other) and also the type of intraocular lens that is going to be used for the actual surgery (some materials are more expensive than others). The cost for the cataract surgery will also be influenced by the area in which you live, the clinic you decide to have the procedure in and also the actual surgeon performing the surgery.
On average, in order to have cataract surgery on one eye, you will have to pay a little above $3000. However, if you want to benefit from the most modern cataract surgery, in which a special correcting intraocular lens is going to be placed inside the eye, then you will have to pay somewhere around $4500. You will have to check our insurance and see what kind of procedures are covered. Sometimes, a part of the surgery is going to be covered or a certain type of procedure will be included in the insurance. However, there are many types of procedures that do not cover modern generation cataract surgery procedures, so you might have to pay for such a procedure out of your own pocket.
In general, cataract surgery is a medical procedure that presents a low risk rate because it is minimally invasive. However, the patient presents a risk for infection to occur in the postoperative phase, especially if the proper hygiene measures are not taken and the eye is not protected by an eye patch. There is also the risk of retina detachment, especially if the patient does a lot of effort during the initial recovery period. Other important risks are related to the patient developing glaucoma (with or without increased eye pressure) and secondary cataract. Loss of vision is also a risk, especially when the synthetic lens is rejected by the body.
Apart from the intraocular infection (known as endophthalmitis), the patient who has undergone cataract surgery is at risk to develop cytoid macular edema (inflammation of the center of the retina) and also for the lens material to fall back into the vitreous cavity (this is known as posterior dislocation of lens material). Choroidal hemorrhage can also occur, the blood vessels supplying the retina being affected. The good news is that all of these risks are treatable and the patient’s vision will be brought back to its normal level, without any further damage.
These are the most common complications of cataract surgery:
- Swelling of the cornea or the retina
- Detachment of the retina
- Secondary cataract (posterior capsule opacity)
- Vision loss
- Excessive pain and redness
- Eye discharge
- Flashes of light in the field of vision
- Dislocated intraocular lens
- Increased pressure in the eye
- Ptosis of the eyelid
- Severe short-sightedness
In the first days after the surgery, your vision might be blurry but this is quite normal, as the eye needs to adjust to the new lens. Keep in mind that the natural eye lens has been replaced with a synthetic one and that it might take some time before the eye gets used to it, time during you might experience cloudy or distorted vision. However, you will notice a definite improvement in the next couple of days. During these few days, you might also have bloodshot eyes, as the vessels in the eye are extremely sensitive. This will disappear in a couple of days as well.
There are patients who declare that they can already see only after a few hours after the procedure. However, in the majority of the cases it takes for about two weeks before the vision is improved and the focus is clear. As for the complete healing process, this takes about two months. The initial period is the hardest, as bruising can appear around the eye from the anesthesia, plus there might be some pain experienced. The majority of the patients have a difficult times not scratching or pushing on the eye.
Cataract surgery is most often done on each eye at the different moments. So, if you have just had cataract surgery on one eye, you will have to wait for it to heal and the adjustment to the new lens to be completed, in order to have the other eye done as well. Sometimes, after the cataract surgery, the patient will have to wear glasses for a short period of time but this depends on the success of the procedure and on the presence of other eye problems that might affect the vision as well.
Watch the Cataract Surgery Video to find out more information about the procedure: