Cataract surgery nothing to fear
Commonplace eye procedure offers few risks, great results
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.