How are cataracts treated?

If your vision is only slightly blurry, a change in your eyeglass prescription may help for a while. However, if you are still not able to see well enough to do the things you like or need to do after the change in eyeglass prescription, cataract surgery should be considered.

Cataract Surgery

In the 1950s and 1960s, the standard process to remove a cataract was to make an incision in the eye, remove the lens, and then stitch the incision up. Because of the stitches, it was standard to have the patient wear an eye patch to protect the eye to prevent injury or infection. After the eye was healed, the patient would then need to wear thick glasses to restore some vision since the lens was gone.

No Needle, No Stitch, No Patch Cataract Surgery

With the advances in today’s technology, there is no longer the need to wear thick glasses after surgery to compensate for the loss of the lens. Before surgery, the length of your eye will be measured precisely and the curve of your cornea will be measured in a technique called keratometry. These measurements help Dr. Donelson select the proper lens implant for your eye.

The most common procedure used for removing cataracts is called phacoemulsification. A small incision is made in the side of the cornea (the front part of your eye). Dr. Donelson inserts a tiny instrument through the incision that uses high-frequency ultrasound to break up the center of the cloudy lens and suction it out.

Most of the time, the cataract can be removed through an incision so small – about 2 to 3mm – that stitches and patches are not necessary. Your eye will heal on its own.

After the cloudy lens has been removed, Dr. Donelson will replace it with an intraocular lens (IOL) implant, usually made with acrylic. This new lens allows light to pass through and focus on the retina. The IOL becomes a permanent part of your eye. In most cases, the IOL is inserted behind the iris, the colored part of your eye, and is called a posterior chamber lens. When the IOL is in place, Dr. Donelson closes the incision. Stitches are rarely needed. While cataract surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgical procedures, not all surgeries are performed in the same manner.


Cataract Surgery Recovery

You will spend a short period of time resting in the outpatient recovery area before you are ready to go home. You will need to have someone drive you home.

Following your surgery, it is very important to put in the eye drops exactly as prescribed by your ophthalmologist to promote healing. You will also need to take care to protect your eye by wearing the eye shield whenever you sleep, and by wearing special wraparound sunglasses in bright light. Be sure not to rub your eye.

The first few days of your recovery, you must avoid strenuous activity such as exercise or bending and heavy lifting (including anything over 25 pounds). You will also need to avoid getting any water, dirt or dust in your eye, which can lead to infection.

You may have some blurry vision a few days to weeks after surgery procedure. If you experience any pain or loss of vision, be sure to call our office.

Cataract Surgery Risks and Complications

As with any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with cataract surgery. 

Risks and complications can include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding inside the eye
  • Increased pressure inside the eye (glaucoma)
  • Swelling of the retina
  • Swelling of the cornea
  • Retinal detachment
  • Loss of vision (partially or completely)

In some cases, the part of the lens covering that supports the IOL (called the capsule) can become cloudy several months or years after the first cataract was removed. This is called an “after cataract” or “secondary cataract.” If this occurs and blurs your vision, Dr. Donelson can make an opening in the center of the cloudy capsule with a laser to allow light to pass through the lens properly again. This procedure is called a posterior capsulotomy and can be performed in the doctor’s office.

If you are having cataract surgery, be sure to tell Dr. Donelson if you are currently or have ever used alpha-blocker medications such as Flomax®, Uroxatral® or Cadura®. These medications affect the iris or pupil and can lead to complications during cataract surgery. If Dr. Donelson knows that you have taken these drugs, his surgical technique may be adapted to help reduce the risk of complications. You should also tell him about any other sedative medications you are taking.

Also, if you plan to have cataract surgery and you have had LASIK or other laser refractive surgery, provide Dr. Donelson with the vision correction prescription you had before LASIK, if possible. This information will help him in calculating your IOL power. 

Most people who wear bifocals or reading glasses for near vision may still need to wear glasses after cataract surgery for reading, and, in some cases, even for distance. There are multiple types of IOLs to choose from. Dr. Donelson will discuss each of them and recommend the best lens for you prior to your surgery.