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«Guide to Cataract Surgery According to Prevent Blindness America’s Vision Problems in the U.S. report, more than 24 million Americans age 40 and ...»

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Guide to Cataract Surgery

According to Prevent Blindness America’s Vision Problems in the U.S.

report, more than 24 million Americans age 40 and older have cataract.

By age 80, more than half of all Americans will have cataract. Every year

in the U.S., more than one million cataract  surgeries are performed.

Cataract surgeries are performed without complication in 95% of cases.

Why does cataract form?  

Cataract is probably caused by changes related to aging. Throughout our lives, our bodies replace old cells with new ones. As we grow older, the old cells in our eye’s lens build up and block light as it tries to pass through. The end result is cloudy vision.

Besides getting older, other factors may cause cataract to form.

Eye infections, some medicines (such as steroids), injuries or exposure to intense heat or radiation may cause cataract. Too much exposure to non-visible sunlight (called UV or ultraviolet light) and various diseases, such as diabetes or metabolic disorders, may also contribute to cataract forming.

What are the types of cataract?   Age-related – 95% of cataract are age-related, usually after age 40.

Congenital – These are present at birth, usually caused by infection or inflammation during pregnancy; possibly inherited.

Traumatic – Lens damage from a hard blow, cut, puncture, intense heat or chemical burn may cause cataract.

Secondary – Some medicines, eye disease, eye infection, or diseases such as diabetes cause these cataract.

How can the eye doctor tell if I have cataract?   Everyone who gets cataract experiences it differently. But a person with cataract commonly experiences cloudy or blurry vision. Lights may cause a glare, seem too dim or seem too bright. It may be hard to read or drive, especially at night. If you have cataract, you may see halos around lights, such as car headlights, that make it hard to focus clearly. Colors may not seem as bright as they used to be. Or you may have to change your eyeglass prescription often.

To find out if you have cataract, your eye  doctor will want to:   find out your general medical history find out your specific eye history, including problems and symptoms This publication is copyrighted. This sheet may be reproduced—unaltered in hard print (photocopied) for educational purposes only. The Prevent Blindness America name, logo, telephone number and copyright information may not be omitted. Electronic reproduction, other reprint, excerption or use is not permitted without written consent. Because of the time-sensitive nature of the information contained in this publication, contact Prevent Blindness America for updates.

MK13 5/13 © 2013 Prevent Blindness America® All rights reserved.

Guide to Cataract Surgery—Page 2 test your vision (visual acuity) test your side vision (peripheral vision) test your eye movement test you for glaucoma (by measuring the eye’s internal pressure) do a microscopic exam of the front of the eye (using something called a slit lamp) to assess the density of the cataract and how it interferes with light passing through the lens widen (dilate) the pupils of your eyes to examine the retina, the optic nerve (which carries visual messages from the retina to the brain) and the macula (responsible for the best part of central vision) test you to see how glare affects your vision Should I have cataract surgery?   You must decide whether to have cataract surgery. Cataract will not cause large vision changes for some people. A cataract at the outer edge of your lens, for example, may hardly affect your vision. A cataract at the center of your lens, however, may greatly affect your sight.

Only you can decide if a change in your vision keeps you from doing all the things you want or need to do.

Note: If a cataract keeps your eye doctor from viewing the inside of your eye, he or she may suggest surgery.  When can I avoid cataract surgery?  

Prevent Blindness America recommends that individuals do not have cataract surgery if:

cataract has not affected your lifestyle or kept you from doing all the things you want and need to do your vision will not improve with surgery because of other eye problems glasses or contact lenses can provide satisfactory vision you are not well enough/fit enough for the surgery you do not want surgery What kind of lens will replace my cataract lens?   When the eye surgeon removes the lens with the cataract, you will need something to replace it, so that you can focus and see clearly. You have three choices to replace your own lens:   Intraocular lenses (IOLs)  Contact lenses  Cataract glasses  Intraocular lenses   Intraocular lenses (IOLs) replace your cataract, or cloudy lens. If you have certain eye diseases or problems which prevent safe placement of an IOL, you will need either contact lenses or cataract glasses in order to see clearly after surgery.

IOLs have become the most popular choice for replacing lenses with cataract. Unlike contact lenses, these lenses are implanted inside the eye and are meant to be permanent. They do not require replacement or cleaning.

The eye surgeon implants the IOL in about the same place as your natural lens, so that it results in the most natural vision.

Guide to Cataract Surgery—Page 3 IOLs are the best option to replace your own lenses. However if you have certain other eye diseases or problems, you may not be able to have lens implants. You and your eye doctor will need to discuss whether any restrictions apply.





Contact lenses  If you are unable to have an IOL implant, you may opt to wear contact lenses after cataract surgery.

By wearing a contact lens on your operated eye, you will be able to see about as well as you did before the cataract developed. These lenses cannot cure all your vision problems. You may still need glasses for close-up work.

There are two types of contact lenses: daily-wear and extended-wear. You must remove daily-wear contact lenses before you go to sleep. You can wear extended-wear contact lenses for longer periods of time. Extendedwear contact lenses are usually prescribed for people who would have trouble inserting and removing daily wear contacts (for example, people with severe arthritis).

Cataract glasses  Cataract glasses may be an option if you cannot have an IOL implant or if you cannot wear contact lenses.

Cataract glasses are also safe and relatively inexpensive, but they may take some getting used to after surgery.

The lenses in cataract glasses are different from regular eyeglasses, so you will see things in a different way.

Objects will look larger (by about 25%) and may seem to appear suddenly in your side vision (peripheral field of vision). Vertical lines may appear curved, and it may be hard to judge distances.

If you have cataract in both eyes but only have surgery in one eye, your eyes won’t be able to work together when you wear cataract glasses after surgery. The glasses lens for your operated eye makes things appear larger while your other eye will view images as they truly are. Your brain won’t be able to put the two images together for normal (binocular) vision. You will have this condition, called monocular aphakia (one eye without a lens), until after your second cataract operation.

Choosing an eye surgeon   Once you decide to have cataract surgery, you’ll need to choose an eye surgeon to perform the operation.

Some things to keep in mind are the surgeon’s experience and skill, how easy it is to talk to him or her and have your questions answered, and your previous experience with this eye doctor, if any.

Referrals may help you choose an eye surgeon. Ask friends who have had cataract surgery or contact a university with a medical school or a hospital for names and references.

If an eye doctor has recommended surgery, you may want to get a second opinion. Make an appointment to see an eye doctor who does not work with, and was not referred by, your regular doctor. You do not have to tell this doctor that someone else has already recommended surgery—let this doctor come to his or her own conclusions about whether you need cataract surgery.

Here are some points you may want to bring up with your doctor. Check the questions you’d like your eye doctor to answer during your next appointment or conversation.

Do I really need surgery? What will I gain by having it?

What are the risks?

What is surgery like? Will it hurt? What will I see?

Will any other problems like glaucoma or diabetes affect my cataract or my surgery?

How long will I need to recover from the surgery?

Will I need glasses after surgery? If I wear contacts, can I wear them again after surgery?

Guide to Cataract Surgery—Page 4 Are there some things I won’t be able to do after surgery? If so, for how long?

Will someone have to take care of me after surgery? If so, for how long?

Will the medicines I take for other illnesses interfere with surgery or my recovery?

How experienced is the doctor? Is he or she board certified?

Is a payment plan available?

Getting ready for surgery  On the day of your surgery, or a few days ahead of time, you may need to see your primary care doctor for a few tests. Because you will be given some form of anesthesia, your doctor will probably ask you not to eat or drink anything after midnight the day before your surgery. If you take medicines or have diabetes, ask your doctor whether different guidelines apply.

Removing the cataract and inserting an intraocular lens usually takes the surgeon ten to fifteen minutes. The entire process, from arriving at the hospital or surgical center to going home, takes about half a day. Less than 1% of surgeries require an overnight hospital stay.

On the day of your surgery, you will be given some eye drops to widen (dilate) your pupils. You may also be given a mild sedative to help you relax. A healthcare worker will take you into the operating room where an anesthesiologist or nurse anesthetist will give you a local or an intravenous anesthetic. He or she will monitor your condition.

You will not feel the surgery because the topical anesthetic numbs your eye during the operation. You may see some lights or vague shapes, but that is all.

Your surgeon will use a special microscope, which magnifies and illuminates the area of the procedure as he or she removes your cataract.

You may not remember much about the operation after it is over. You may feel a little drowsy afterward, but as the sedative wears off, you will be encouraged to walk around a bit. Your doctor will monitor your condition for a while, explain how to care for your eye at home and schedule a follow-up appointment.

Once you’re fully recovered, you will be allowed to go home. It is a good idea to have a friend or relative drive you. You may feel tired after surgery, so try to relax the rest of the day.

At home, you should not experience much discomfort. Some people describe the feeling as having an eyelash or a cinder in their eye—slightly uncomfortable but not painful. You will apply eye drops or ointment as your doctor prescribes, and you will learn to rely on your untreated eye during this time.

Three kinds of cataract removal   During the cataract operation, your surgeon will first remove the clouded lens. (If you are able to have a lens implant, your doctor will perform this procedure right after removing your cataract lens.) There are three methods for removing the clouded lens:   Phacoemulsification  Extracapsular  Intracapsular   Phacoemulsification The most common procedure, phacoemulsification requires a smaller incision in the cornea or, less commonly, the sclera. The surgeon uses sound waves (an ultrasonic device) to break the lens into small pieces, and then Guide to Cataract Surgery—Page 5 suctions the tiny pieces out through the same incision.Next, the doctor will insert the lens into place. Again, the capsular bag will remain to strengthen the eye and to preserve normal architecture. Most IOLs are foldable, so they can be inserted through the same small incision. The lens usually unfolds slowly once it is placed into the capsular bag. The incision can be closed with either one stitch, or usually none at all.

Phacoemulsification, with its smaller incision, offers the fastest healing and recovery time, produces little discomfort, and reduces the chance of uneven focus (astigmatism) or distorted vision.

Extracapsular and Intracapsular Less common are the extracapsular and intracapsular procedures. An extracapsular cataract extraction may be needed if your lens is too hard to phacoemalsify. The extracapsular procedure removes only the inside of the lens but leaves the capsular bag that holds the lens in place. Leaving the capsular bag adds to the structural strength of the eye and promotes easier healing.

During the intracapsular procedure, your eye surgeon removes the lens and the entire capsular bag that holds it.

Your doctor will make an incision in the sclera, use a special tool to freeze the lens, and then remove it through the incision. He or she may then implant the IOL in front of the iris where its loops hold it in place. Another option is to suture the IOL to the wall of the eye. This latter option enables the IOL to be placed behind the iris.

Cost of surgery Basic charges you can expect for cataract surgery include fees for the hospital/surgical center, the doctor, the anesthesiologist, basic tests before surgery, medicine after surgery and follow-up visits with your doctor.

Ask your doctor to estimate each of the costs. You may also need new glasses or contact lenses after surgery.

If you have private health insurance or Medicare, it will usually pay for a part of most costs. Try to find out what your health insurance will cover before the surgery. Extra insurance (secondary supplemental insurance) also may cover 80% of the amounts not covered by your primary insurance. You may have to pay 20% of the balance.

Ask your doctor about his or her billing and payment methods. Newer “bifocal” IOLs are not usually covered by insurance.

Some hospitals and surgical centers may be able to help you with financial planning. This may include putting together a payment plan or filing claims to your insurance company. Filling out insurance forms can be hard—so be sure to ask questions ahead of time.

Possible complications from surgery Less than 5% of patients experience complications from cataract surgery, but you should discuss possible



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