Don't be afraid of cataract surgery

Posted: June 2012

As an ophthalmologist who has performed hundreds of cataract surgeries, I often hear my patients say they wish they had done it sooner. Patients sometimes delay the procedure because they fear that it will be painful, that it will require an overnight hospital stay or that it will not significantly improve their vision.

Cataract Awareness Month is a good time to share some facts about cataracts and today's treatment options.

Having cataracts is a common vision problem that also presents an opportunity. With aging the eye's lens may cloud and affect vision. By age 75, 70 percent of people will develop cataracts.

The good news is that cataract surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure. It is usually a 20-minute surgery, allowing patients to go home within 30 minutes to an hour after surgery. The clouded lens is replaced with an artificial prescription lens to correct vision, greatly reducing the dependence on prescription eyeglasses.

Implanting intraocular lenses (IOLs) is a common eye surgery approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the 1980s. In fact, today cataract surgery is the most common and successful surgery in the world.

While it is a common surgery with a low rate of complications, you want to make sure you choose the best surgeon for the best results. When selecting a cataract surgeon, patients look for a doctor with experience, a high patient satisfaction rating, and a state-of-the-art surgical center.

By talking with cataract patients about their expectations and doing thorough evaluations with advanced equipment, the surgeons determine the best plastic lens and prescription for each patient. Here is a summary of lens options:

  • Monofocal lenses offer clear vision at one distance and will require the use of glasses or contact lenses to see clearly at all ranges.
  • Multifocal and accommodative lenses enable a person to rely less on glasses and/or contact lenses to see clearly at both near and far distances. UTMB Health surgeons use premium multifocal lenses including the ReSTOR® CrystaLens® and TECNIS® brands.
  • Patients with astigmatism can be treated with the Toric IOL™

What should patients expect during the surgery? The eye lens is shaped like an M&M candy. The surgeon opens the shell with a tiny 2 mm incision, removes the cataract and replaces it with an artificial lens. Typically, patients can return to work and other routine activities within two days after surgery. Patients rarely experience any pain but may have a scratchy feeling in their eyes for a few days.

When to have the surgery is up to the cataract patient and is usually based on his/her daily activities and related vision needs. Only the patient can determine when symptoms, including glare (especially with nighttime driving), dimmed colors, blurriness and other cataract-related problems, begin to impact daily activities like reading, driving, watching television and playing golf.

After age 65, most people will see their eye doctor at least once a year when they will have their vision tested, learn whether cataracts are growing and discuss treatment options. The good news is that you do not have to live with cataracts.

Dr. Manuj Kapur is a cornea specialist and cataract surgeon at the UTMB Health Eye Center. Read more at www.utmbeyecenter.com