What is a cataract?

A cataract is when the lens of the eye becomes dark and hard or forms a localized opacity causing a decrease in vision. Cataract surgery is recommended when the vision as a result of the cataract is reduced, causing limitations in ability to perform activities such as reading, watching television, or driving.

How is cataract surgery performed?

Cataract surgery is performed using delicate microsurgical techniques. Cataract surgery involves removal of the inside substance of the lens using an ultrasound needle that acts like a mini-jack hammer and vacuum cleaner at the same time. This needle fragments the lens into small pieces and then vacuums these small pieces out of the eye. A cellophane-like capsule is all that remains allowing the surgeon to insert an artificial lens inside the capsule. In approximately 1-3% of cases, more so in patients with complicated cataracts, the capsule ruptures during surgery necessitating removal of vitreous gel. Depending upon the circumstances during surgery the surgeon may decide not to implant an artificial lens in the eye.

Will cataract surgery make me see well?

Cataract surgery successfully improves vision when the main cause of the loss of vision is due to the cataract. If a patient has other problems in the eye like glaucoma, diabetes, or macular degeneration in the eye, the amount of visual improvement may vary significantly. Glaucoma patients may find that after successful cataract surgery the central or straight-ahead vision improves but the peripheral or side vision doesn’t. In patients with advanced glaucoma, severe diabetes, or advanced macular degeneration, cataract surgery may result in little or no visual improvement even after a completely successful surgery. Your doctor will best be able to explain to you whether or not you’re an appropriate candidate for cataract surgery.

On the day of surgery you will be given sedation by the anesthesiologist to relax you and your doctor will administer local anesthesia to numb the eye for surgery. The procedure usually lasts about 1 hour, longer in complicated eyes.