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Cataract surgery is a procedure performed to remove a cloudy lens from the eye; usually an intraocular lens is implanted at the same time.
The purpose of cataract surgery is to restore clear vision. It is indicated when cloudy vision due to cataracts has progressed to such an extent that it interferes with normal daily activities. It is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures in the world.
Cataract surgery is not performed on both eyes at once. To avoid risking blindness in both eyes in the event of infection or other catastrophe, the first eye is allowed to heal before the cataract is removed from the second eye.
The presence of cataracts can mask additional eye problems, such as retinal damage, that neither doctors nor patients are aware of prior to surgery. Since such conditions will continue to impair sight after cataract removal if they are not identified and treated, the eventual outcome of cataract surgery will depend on the outcome of other problems.
In 1997 and 1998, evidence that cataract surgery can contribute to the progression of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) was published. ARMD is the degeneration of the central part of the retina. Accordingly, ARMD patients with cataracts must weigh the risks of the loss of central vision, within four or five years, against short-term improvement. When an ARMD patient chooses cataract surgery, the surgeon should shield the retina against bright light to protect it from possible light-induced damage during surgery and install an intraocular lens capable of absorbing ultraviolet and blue light, which seem to do the most damage.
There are two types of cataract surgery: intracapsular and extracapsular. Intracapsular surgery is the removal of both the lens and the thin capsule that surround the lens. This type of surgery was common before 1980, but has since been displaced by extracapsular surgery. Removal of the capsule requires a large incision and doesn't allow comfortable intraocular lens implantation. Thus, people who undergo intracapsular cataract surgery have long recovery periods and have to wear very thick glasses.
Extracapsular cataract surgery is the removal of the lens where the capsule is left in place. Each year in the United States, over a million cataracts are removed this way. Physicians and researchers continue to improve cataract surgery methods. Research from France in 2003 said that cataract removal and nonpenetrating glaucoma surgery can be combined in glaucoma patients.
There are two methods for extracapsular cataract surgery. The usual technique is phacoemulsification. A tiny incision (about 0.12in or 3 mm long) is made next to the cornea (the eye's outer covering), and an ultrasonic probe is used to break the cataract into minute pieces, which are then removed by suction. When the lens is too hard to be emulsified ultrasonically, the surgeon will use a different extracapsular technique requiring a larger incision. An incision about 0.37 in (9 mm) inches long is made, and the whole lens (without its capsule) is removed through the incision. Both kinds of extracapsular extraction leave the back of the capsule intact, so a silicone or plastic intraocular lens can be stably implanted in about the same location as the original lens.
The surgery takes about 30-60 minutes per eye.
Patients must have a pre-operation eye examination, which will include ultrasound analysis to make sure the retina (the innermost layer of the eye, containing the light receptors) is intact and also to measure eye curvature so that a lens with the proper correction can be implanted. The patient also will have a preoperative physical examination. In addition, patients start a course of antibiotic eye drops or ointment the day before surgery.
Proper post-operative care is especially important after cataract surgery. Patients will need someone to drive them home after the surgery and should not bend over or do anything strenuous for about two weeks. They should refrain from rubbing the eye, should wear glasses to protect their eye, and should wear a shield while sleeping so the eye won't be rubbed or bumped accidentally. The patient will usually continue their antibiotic for two to three weeks and will also take anti-inflammatory medication for about the same length of time. If the patient experiences inflammation, redness, or pain, they should seek immediate medical treatment to avoid serious complications.
Cataract surgery itself is quite safe; over 90% of the time, there are no complications. Possible complications include intraocular infection (endophthalmitis), central retinal inflammation (macular edema), post-operative glaucoma, retinal detachment, bleeding under the retina (choroidal hemorrhage), and tiny lens fragments in the back (vitreous) cavity of the eye, all of which can lead to loss of sight. Since increased use of the phacoemulsification method of cataract surgery, researchers have noted a decline in cases of infection (endophthalmitis). This probably is because injectable intraocular lenses do not make contact with the ocular surface. In 2004, the FDA approved a new capsular tension ring for use in cataract surgery that helps prevent lens dislocation and other possible complications of surgery.
Ordinarily, patients experience improved visual acuity and improved perception of the vividness of colors, leading to increased abilities in many activities, including reading, needlework, driving, golf, and tennis, for example. In addition, sometimes implanted corrective lenses eliminate the need for eyeglasses or contact lenses. Researchers and manufacturers also continue to work to improve the lenses available in cataract surgeries, so that eventual vision and outcome are improved.
"Cataract Removal, Nonpenetrating Glaucoma Surgery Can Be Combined." Biotech Week September 13, 2003: 133.
"FDA Approves Stabil Eyes Capsular Tension Rig for Cataract Surgery." Biotech Week May 26, 2004: 23.
Groves, Nancy. "Advances in Cataract Surgery Driven by Technology; Surgeons Able to Achieve Better Outcomes With New IOL, Viscoadaptive Devices." Ophthalmology Times April 1, 2004: 39.
Mayer, E., et al. "A 10-year Retrospective Survey of Cataract Surgery and Endophthalmitis in a Single Yey Unit: Injectable Lenses Lower the Incidence of Endophthalmitis." British Journal of Ophthalmology July 2003: 867-873.
American Academy of Ophthalmology. 655 Beach Street, P.O. Box 7424, San Francisco, CA 94120-7424. http://www.eyenet.org.
American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery. 4000 Legato Road, Suite 850, Fairfax, VA 22033-4055. (703) 591-2220. http://www.ascrs.org.
"Cataract in Adults: A Patient's Guide." National Library of Medicine Page. http://text.nlm.nih.gov.
"Patient Information." Digital Journal of Ophthalmology. 〈http://www.djo.harvard.edu/meei/PI/PIhome.html〉.
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) — Degeneration of the macula (the central part of the retina where the rods and cones are most dense) that leads to loss of central vision in people over 60.
Cataract — Progressive opacity or clouding of an eye lens, which obstructs the passage of light to the retina.
Cornea — Clear outer covering of the front of the eye.
Intraocular lens — Lens made of silicone or plastic placed within the eye; can be corrective.
Retina — Innermost layer at the back of the eye, which contains light receptors, the rods and cones.
cataract surgeryCataract extraction Eye surgery A procedure that restores function and improves visual acuity in ±90% of Pts with cataracts. See Phacoemulsion, Posterior capsulotomy.
cataract surgeryThe operation to remove a cataractous lens and, usually, to replace it with a plastic lens implant. This operation is performed through a self-sealing 3 mm incision, the lens material being broken up by ultrasonic phako-emulsification and sucked out. The refraction of the eye is then restored by insertion of a flexible plastic implant that may require a slightly enlarged incision or may be inserted rolled up through the small incision. The operation is commonly performed under local anaesthesia. The results are usually excellent.
Patient discussion about cataract surgery
Q. I had cataract surgery with iol implant, and ever since I have awful light sensitivity. Any ideas? I can't go into a "super store" without my sunglasses. My eyes ache at the end of the day. My doctor says "I don't know!"
A. May sound a bit silly question, but have you tried to consult your ophthalmologist (eye doctor, e.g. the one that performed the operation) about it? Cataract surgery, although considered very successful, isn't problem-free. Primary physician may not have the necessary specialization to deal with these subjects.More discussions about cataract surgery