What is a Cataract?
A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens. Vision through eyes with cataracts is characterized as looking through a foggy window or piece of wax paper. Cataract development is usually a very gradual process of normal aging, but can occasionally occur rapidly. Many people are unaware that they have cataracts because the changes in their vision are so gradual. Cataracts are very common, affecting roughly 60% of people over the age of 60, and over 1.5 million cataract surgeries are performed in the United States each year.
Cataract surgery is usually very successful, with success rates approaching 98%. As with any operation, complications can occur, but in most cases, vision, as well as quality of life, improve dramatically.
Some common symptoms of cataracts may include:
- Painless blurring of vision
- Sensitivity to light and glare
- Double vision in one eye
- Poor night vision
- Fading or yellowing of colors
- Frequent changes in glasses or contact lens prescription.
Modern cataract surgery in the average patient now takes about 20 minutes or less, with the patient resuming normal activity shortly after surgery. The incision to remove the cataract is so small that stitches are usually unnecessary and healing is largely completed in a week or two. With the advent of microsurgery and the intraocular lens implant , cataracts no longer have to “ripen” and can be removed at any stage. A cataract need not be removed merely “because it is there” (the reason ascribed to the late Sir Edmund Hillary when asked why he climbed Mt. Everest) but is generally removed when it affects quality of life. Cataract surgery is accompanied by insertion of a clear, plastic intraocular lens (IOL) and is statistically the most successful operation performed on the human body.
Cataract Surgery Choices
Once you have decided to have cataract surgery, you will have a number of decisions to make, including an eye surgeon to perform the operation. At Eastside Eye Associates, we offer the most current and successful surgical techniques and instrumentation, combined with patient care second to none. Our surgery is performed in an outpatient setting at The Mount Sinai Hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Patients are generally in and out of the hospital in about four hours.
The next most important decision to make is the type of intraocular lens implant to have. Your options will include the standard monofocal IOL for either distance or near vision, or the ReSTOR or TORIC intraocular lens that gives additional benefits beyond the fixed vision of a standard IOL. The ReSTOR IOL gives both distance and near vision similar to the natural lens of a 30 or 40 year old, while the Toric IOL corrects astigmatism as well as distance vision, reducing your reliance on eye glasses.
Your Cataract Surgery
Before your cataract surgery, your pupil must be dilated and the area around your eye thoroughly cleaned. Most patients will have already started an antibiotic eye drop in advance of the surgery. At the beginning of the procedure, an anesthesiologist will give you a mild intravenous sedative, similar to the sedation used during a colonoscopy, and a local anesthetic will ensure that the operation is totally pain free. An ultrasonic device similar to a miniature jack-hammer is inserted through a tiny incision and gently removes the cloudy natural lens. A folded intraocular lens is then inserted through the incision and maneuvered into place. The small incision usually requires no sutures and heals in a week or two. If you are like the average patient, your vision will be clearer than you ever could have imagined.
It is important that you discuss your vision expectations with your eye surgeon prior to your surgery. This may be the one time in your life where you can choose to be as spectacle independent as possible by upgrading to a premium intraocular lens. If financial considerations must govern your decision, a standard monofocal IOL can still result in greatly improved eyesight and almost no dependence on eyeglasses. Learn more about the premium lens implants offered at Eastside Eye Associates.
For the average patient, recovering from cataract surgery is fast and easy, only requiring the use of eye drops to prevent infection and promote healing. Most patients will notice improved vision within a few hours to a day or two, and apart from being careful not to rub their eye, the majority of patients can bend, lift and resume full activity the next day.