Cataract surgery noth­ing to fear

Com­mon­place eye pro­ce­dure of­fers few risks, great re­sults

The Covington News - - MEDICAL UPDATE -

Ask most peo­ple their opin­ion of surgery, and you’re likely to hear how much they’d love to avoid it.

Sooner or later, how­ever, most peo­ple will find them­selves go­ing un­der the knife, be it for mi­nor or ma­jor surgery. While some are quick to point out there’s no such thing as “ mi­nor” surgery, some sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures are cer­tainly more com­mon­place and less risky than oth­ers.

One such pro­ce­dure is cataract surgery. Among the more com­mon sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures in the United States, cataract surgery typ­i­cally goes off with­out a hitch, as 98 per­cent of all cataract surg­eries are com­pleted each year with­out any se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions.

Still, be­cause vi­sion is at stake, many cataract pa­tients un­der­stand­ably approach the surgery with a de­gree of trep­i­da­tion. For those fac­ing cataract surgery them­selves or ac­com­pa­ny­ing a loved one for surgery, un­der­stand­ing ex­actly what hap­pens is a good way to calm those nerves.

As many peo­ple age, the lens of an eye be­gins to get clouded. This cloudi­ness is the re­sult of a pro­tein buildup on the eye, pre­vent­ing light from pass­ing through the lens and caus­ing some vi­sion loss.

The pre­cise cause of the pro­tein buildup is un­known, though age, cig­a­rette smoke, air pol­lu­tion, and heavy al­co­hol con­sump­tion can be con­tribut­ing fac­tors.

Be­cause of the un­cer­tainty with re­spect to what causes cataracts, the best pre­ven­tive ad­vice, par­tic­u­larly for se­nior cit­i­zens or those with a his­tory of vi­sion prob­lems, is to sched­ule reg­u­lar eye ex­am­i­na­tions.

The most com­mon pro­ce­dure to re­move cataracts em­ploys high fre­quency sound waves or ul­tra­sound to break up the the af­fected lens. The pieces are then re­moved by suc­tion. Dur­ing the pro­ce­dure, the pa­tient is placed un­der an anes­thetic.

Once the af­fected lens has been re­moved, a new man- made lens re­places it. Th­ese lenses are fit­ted to each in­di­vid­ual’s eye, and typ­i­cally re­quire pa­tients to get a new eye­glass pre­scrip­tion. Pa­tients with cataracts in both eyes will not have both re­moved dur­ing the same surgery and will need to sched­ule two surg­eries.

Af­ter surgery, pa­tients will no­tice an im­prove­ment in their vi­sion the very next day. How­ever, the best re­sults won’t be felt un­til a pa­tient re­ceives a new eye­glasses pre­scrip­tion.

While vi­sion will im­prove al­most im­me­di­ately, some dis­com­fort will re­sult from cataract surgery. Most peo­ple have seen the large, dark glasses given to post- cataract surgery pa­tients. That’s be­cause the eye will be ex­tremely sen­si­tive to light af­ter surgery. Such sen­si­tiv­ity does not last very long, how­ever.

In ad­di­tion to light sen­si­tiv­ity, it’s not un­com­mon to feel an itch­ing sen­sa­tion or mild dis­com­fort. In gen­eral, this is some­thing pa­tients will have to live with, as doc­tors gen­er­ally sug­gest an over- the- counter med­i­ca­tion such as Tylenol to com­bat th­ese mi­nor side ef­fects.

Once surgery is com­pleted, pa­tients will be pre­scribed eye drops that will pro­tect against in­fec­tion and help con­trol any pres­sure in the eye. For some pa­tients, avoid­ing stren­u­ous ac­tiv­i­ties is rec­om­mended fol­low­ing surgery. How­ever, that’s based more on the in­di­vid­ual, and most pa­tients can re­turn to nor­mal ac­tiv­ity shortly fol­low­ing surgery.

Though most peo­ple would pre­fer to live a surgery- free life, for many that’s not the re­al­ity. When it comes to a surgery as com­mon as cataract surgery, there’s far more to gain than to fear.

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