Cataract Eye Surgery Wilmington
Cataracts are an extremely prevalent age-related eye problem, and a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in this country. The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 50 million adults in the United States will have cataracts by the year 2050. Left untreated, cataracts can significantly impair a person’s visual clarity and quality of life. The blurry, hazy vision caused by cataracts often robs people of their ability to perform everyday tasks and participate in their favorite hobbies. It can be difficult to enjoy an active lifestyle due to cataracts and their effects.
What Is a Cataract?
A cataract is a progressive clouding of the eye’s lens. A youthful lens is transparent, like a window, but with age the proteins that make up the lens can start to break down and clump together, creating cloudy or opaque areas. As light passes through the cloudy lens, it can no longer focus clearly on the retina. This results in a variety of visual symptoms.
Although the majority of cataracts are due to age-related changes within the eye, that is not the cause of every case. Other factors that can contribute to the development of cataracts include spending a lot of time in the sun without sunglasses, taking certain medications like corticosteroids and suffering an eye injury. Medical conditions like diabetes can also increase the risk of cataracts in younger people.
Symptoms of Cataracts
Cataracts can cause any of the following:
- Blurry or hazy vision
- Faded or yellowish colors
- Sensitivity to light
- Double vision
- Poor night vision
The symptoms of cataracts may seem mild at first, progressing slowly over time.
Am I a Good Candidate for Cataract Eye Surgery?
Perhaps your cataracts are making it difficult for you to drive safely at night or enjoy your favorite hobbies like reading or watching television. You may be a good candidate for cataract surgery if cataracts impair your vision enough to interfere with your daily life, and glasses and contact lenses do not provide sufficient relief.
What to Do about Cataracts
There is no surefire way to avoid cataracts. Although protecting the eyes from the sun, eating a healthy diet and having regular eye exams are great practices for overall ocular health, they cannot prevent the development of cataracts. Most people get cataracts if they live long enough.
Not all cataracts are advanced enough to require treatment. It is only when the visual effects of cataracts start to interfere with daily life — for example, making it difficult to drive, read, sew or play golf — that it may be time to consider cataract treatment. There is no non-surgical way to treat cataracts; neither medication nor eyedrops can improve the clouding of the eye’s lens.
The only way to treat cataracts is through a surgical procedure. During the operation, the cloudy lens is removed from the eye and an artificial lens installed in its place to restore clear vision and focus. There are many different types of artificial lenses to choose from, each with unique features.
Research now shows that cataract surgery may prolong a person’s life. By improving visual clarity, cataract surgery makes it easier to practice healthy lifestyle habits, such as staying physically active, taking medication as prescribed and reducing the risk of falls and other life-threatening accidents.
Post-Surgical and Recovery Information
Recovering from cataract surgery is a short process. Knowing what to expect can help make the post-operative period smooth and reduce your risk of complications.
Cataract surgery is performed on an outpatient basis, meaning you do not need to stay overnight in the hospital. You can return home shortly after your procedure to recover. Once you get home, try to rest your eyes for a few hours by taking a nap. Most people can watch television or use a computer later in the day.
In the first few days after surgery, your eyes might feel sore or itchy. You might have some tearing or sensitivity to light. These aftereffects are completely normal and will subside with time.
You will need to wear an eye shield to avoid accidentally rubbing your eyes while you sleep. You will also need to use special eyedrops regularly to prevent infection.
Plan to lay low for about a week after surgery. You will not be able to bend over, lift heavy objects or put any pressure on your eyes during the initial post-op period. You will need to avoid swimming or going in hot tubs for about a week. Also, you should avoid dusty areas, as your eyes will be sensitive to airborne allergens.
Refrain from any strenuous activities for a few weeks, following the specific timeline provided by your surgeon. Your surgeon will also clear you to resume driving once your vision has recovered.
It can take up to eight weeks for your eyes to completely heal. Depending on the IOL you select, you may or may not need glasses or contact lenses for certain tasks or in certain conditions after cataract surgery.
Tips to Prepare for Cataract Surgery Recovery
Making a few arrangements ahead of time can help ensure a smooth and stress-free recovery from cataract surgery.
The most crucial step to take is to arrange for transportation home after cataract surgery. You will not be able to drive, as you may still be sedated and your eye will be bandaged. Ask a trusted friend or family member to drive you to and from the surgery center and be available to run any necessary errands for 24 hours after surgery.
Next, prepare to take a few days off from cooking, cleaning and doing any work around the house. Make meals ahead of time or stock your fridge with grab-and-go snacks and pre-packaged meals, so you do not have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Do laundry and any household tasks that require lifting or bending before surgery, or plan to put off these tasks until you have completely recovered. You might also want to vacuum and clean your house before surgery so there is not a lot of dust or airborne allergens floating around in the air that could irritate your healing eyes.
Fill any of your prescriptions ahead of time, so you do not have to bother with stopping at the pharmacy on your way home from surgery.
Finally, reach out to your surgical team if you have any questions or concerns leading up to the procedure. Your doctor can give you the information you need to feel calm and relaxed about your care.
Frequently Asked Questions about Cataracts & Treatment
Is cataract surgery serious?
Every medical procedure is serious, but cataract surgery is one of the safest, most commonly performed procedures performed today. Selecting a qualified, experienced cataract surgeon reduces the risks of surgery and maximizes your chances of a safe, successful procedure.
How does a cataract get removed?
Cataracts are removed during a short outpatient surgical procedure. The cloudy lens is carefully separated into small pieces, which are removed from the eye. An artificial lens is implanted in the eye to replace the natural lens and restore clear vision.
Can cataracts ever make you blind?
Left untreated, cataracts will continue to interfere with visual acuity. In the most advanced cases, cataracts can cause legal or total blindness.
Can cataracts come back?
Once a cloudy lens has been extracted from the eye, cataracts cannot return. However, the membrane or capsule that holds the new artificial lens can develop cloudy areas that cause visual symptoms similar to those caused by cataracts. This condition is known as posterior capsular opacification, and it is easily treated during a quick, in-office laser treatment.
How much does removing cataracts cost?
The cost of cataract surgery is based on factors such as the provider, technology used and the artificial lens selected to replace the natural lens.
Is cataract removal covered by insurance?
Insurance coverage varies by provider. Insurance companies like Medicare normally cover standard cataract surgery with a monofocal lens implant for candidates that meet certain criteria. The use of laser technology and advanced lens implants increases the cost of surgery and is usually not covered by insurance plans.
When will my vision return to normal after cataract surgery?
Vision begins to improve shortly after cataract surgery. It is common to have blurry, cloudy or distorted vision for a few days as the eye heals from surgery. You may also experience some eye irritation or redness, and an itching sensation in your eye. As the eye recovers and you get used to your new artificial lens, you will gradually notice improved vision. It can take four to six weeks for your eye to completely heal and to experience optimal results.
Learn More about Cataracts
Dr. Gregory Johnson and Dr. Gail Kelley are happy to evaluate you for cataracts and thoroughly explain your treatment options. Please contact our Wilmington, NC office with your cataract questions today.