What is Cataract?

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The eye’s natural lens is responsible for bending, focusing, and refracting light onto the retina (back of the eye) – where it’s converted into an electrical signal, sent to the brain via the optic nerve, and processed into an image. Of course, this process only works if the eye’s lens is clear – which isn’t always the case.

In the case of a cataract, the eye’s natural crystalline lens becomes cloudy – cataract symptoms may include:

  • Cloudy vision, blurry vision, or double vision
  • Colors fading
  • Difficulty seeing at night or in the dark
  • Light bulbs seem too bright
  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Frequent prescription changes

There are several different types of cataracts, including age-related cataracts, traumatic cataracts, secondary cataracts, cortical cataracts, posterior subcapsular cataracts, congenital cataracts, nuclear cataracts, and more. Getting cataracts diagnosed early is essential to cataract treatment.

Most cataracts occur when proteins and fibers in the lens break down and clump together – ultimately casting a cloud over the eye’s natural lens and resulting in impaired vision. They generally start to form after you turn 60 years old and gradually worsen over time, but cataract formation can and will happen at any age.

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What to Expect From Cataract Surgery

Cataracts can wreak havoc on an individual’s ability to live a quality life, but there are treatment options available. In the early stages, you can try using brighter lights at home or work, wearing anti-glare glasses, or using a magnifying glass while reading. A new prescription can also help in the early stages.

When cataracts start to get in the way of everyday activities, your doctor will suggest cataract surgery – which involves replacing the eye’s natural lens with a brand new, artificial lens (also known as an IOL, or an intraocular lens. There are three primary types of intraocular lens – let’s take a closer look at each one:

  • Monofocal IOLs – a monofocal intraocular lens (or monofocal lens, for short) not only corrects cataracts, but also corrects vision at one distance (near or far).
  • Toric IOLs – a toric intraocular lens not only corrects cataracts, but also corrects astigmatism.
  • Multi-focal IOLs – a multi-focal intraocular lens (also known as a presbyopia-correcting lens or extended depth-of-focus lens) not only correct cataracts, but correct both near and far vision.

The procedure for cataract surgery might seem a little scary – you’re replacing your eye’s natural lens, after all – but don’t worry, it’s as safe as it is effective. In fact, cataract surgery has been performed for more than 80 years and with the technology we have available today, safer and more effective than ever.

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Preparing for Surgery

Before you’re approved as a good candidate for cataract surgery, your doctor will first perform a dilated eye exam to officially diagnose the disease and determine its severity. Once cataract surgery is deemed necessary, your doctor will measure your eye to determine the required focusing power of your new IOL.

Not only that, but you and your doctor will have to determine which type of intraocular lens (see above) suits your vision the best. In the days/weeks leading up to your surgery, your doctor may give you an eye drop prescription and they may ask you to stop taking certain medicine – don’t worry, it’s just temporarily.

Day of the Procedure

On the day of your cataract surgery, you may be asked to avoid eating food at least six hours prior to your appointment. Most patients will undergo the surgery on an outpatient basis, meaning it’s done in the doctor’s office – not in a hospital setting. Let’s take a look at a step-by-step guide on what to expect:

  1. The eyes are numbed with eye drops
  2. Tiny incisions are made with a laser by the edge of the cornea
  3. The cloudy lens is broken up via phacoemulsification (a probe that uses ultrasound waves)
  4. The clouded lens is then vacuumed out of the eye – leaving the patient temporarily lens-less
  5. Using the same incision, the doctor inserts the intraocular lens into place
  6. The doctor will stitch the incision if necessary, though it’s usually not necessary
  7. The patient is given an eye shield and taken to a rest area for 15-20 minutes before going home

While you are awake during the procedure, most patients won’t feel any pain – though a little discomfort and pressure is normal. You should expect to spend a little more than one hour at the doctor’s office once you arrive – the actually procedure takes around 15-20 minutes, while the rest period is about 20 minutes.

Aftercare & Recovery

While patients are allowed to leave shortly after surgery is completed, it’s important to note that you’re not allowed to drive yourself home – so make sure you have a chauffeur. Your doctor will provide a series of instructions and directions to follow In the days and weeks that follow – make sure you follow them to a T.

For example, you’ll likely be asked to take prescription eye drops, avoid getting soap or water directly in the eye, avoid rubbing or pressing on the eye, avoid exercise and/or heavy lifting, avoid wearing eye makeup, wear your eye shield or protective glasses when necessary, and schedule your follow-up.

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What is a Secondary Cataract?

The term ‘secondary cataract’ is a bit misleading, considering it’s impossible to get a cataract after you undergo cataract surgery. With that said, some patients might experience cataract-like symptoms after having surgery – it might seem like you have a cataract all over again, but it’s not a problem with the lens.

Instead, it’s a problem with the capsule – which doesn’t get replaced during surgery – that the intraocular lens sits in. When the capsule becomes cloudy, your vision becomes cloudy. Don’t worry, your doctor will recommend undergoing posterior capsule opacification (PCO) to further correct your clouded vision.

Contact Milwaukee Eye Surgeons to Learn More!

Are you starting to experience common symptoms of a cataract? Are you worried that your cataract is worsening – to the point it’s starting to interfere with your ability to live a quality life? Has it been more than a year since your last eye doctor visit? If you answered yes to any of those questions, contact us!

At Milwaukee Eye Surgeons, we take pride in serving the Milwaukee community and promoting long-term eye health through quality eye care services. Whether you need an eye exam or cataract surgery, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (414) 377-5550 or send us an email at info@MilwaukeeEyeSurgeons.com.

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