What to Expect from Cataract Surgery
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, “cataracts affect more than 24.4 million Americans age 40 and older. By age 75, approximately half of all Americans have cataracts.” Ocular Surgery News reported several years ago that the combination of the aging population, an increased access to eye health care and advances in surgical technique means that more and more Americans over the age of 40 are having cataract surgery than ever before.
Cataracts are one of the most common forms of eye disease. Others you may have heard of include age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma, both of which tend to impact older adults. The American Academy of Ophthalmology says that Glaucoma affects 2.7 million Americans age 40 and older, and by age 80, approximately one in ten Americans have late AMD, which is more common in women than men.
Of all the forms of eye disease and surgery, why is cataract surgery so common? “Inside our eyes, we have a natural lens. The lens bends (refracts) light rays that come into the eye to help us see. The lens should be clear,” the Academy of Ophthalmology explains. “If you have a cataract, your lens has become cloudy.” This cloudiness can cause things to look blurry, foggy and less colorful. Surgery is regularly performed as a simple and effective method of correcting these vision problems.
Cataract Surgery: What to Expect
Over time, cataracts can grow to cause serious issues with blurred or tinted vision, light sensitivity or tinted night vision. Tackling the problem early on reduces the impact that this vision distortion will have on your life so you can drive, live, read and work comfortably and safely.
In addition to protecting your vision, in some cases, cataracts can impede your ophthalmologists’ ability to examine your eye for conditions that are potentially dangerous and which could go unnoticed unless the cataract is removed.
Cataract surgery is considered minor surgery because it’s so common, incredibly safe and usually completed in a matter of hours. Still, undergoing any form of surgical procedure is nerve-wracking, especially when it comes to your eyes.
Here’s what to expect if you or a loved one are preparing for cataract surgery:
1. Before Your Surgery
Cataract surgery essentially replaces the lens of your eye with an artificial equivalent. Your doctor will perform basic tests to determine the condition, size and shape of your eye to ensure the surgery goes smoothly.
You should arrange to have someone drive you to and from the surgery, and if you are nervous, ask them to wait with you until the procedure is over.
Even though this surgery is considered minor, it’s important to ask questions and ensure you understand the pre and post-surgery instructions you are given. Some questions to ask include:
- Are there any medications you should avoid before your surgery?
- How long before the surgery should you stop eating or drinking?
- How long will you need to stay after the surgery?
- If you have glasses what will happen with your existing prescription? Will you need to buy new glasses?
- What changes in your vision should you expect or watch out for?
- Will the procedure be performed in the doctor’s clinic or in the hospital?
- Will you need to use special eye drops before or after the surgery (if so check to see if your insurance will cover the prescription)?
2. During the Procedure
You’ll be awake for the entire procedure, but just like laser eye surgery, you won’t feel a thing.
Your doctor will administer eye drops and then numb your eyeball (a strange feeling, admittedly, but not painful at all).
If you are very nervous they may also give you something to help you calm down.
3. After Cataract Surgery
After surgery, your vision will likely remain distorted for a few days at least, this is completely normal and should not be cause for concern. It is also normal for your eye to feel dry, itchy or uncomfortable but it is important that you do not scratch or rub it.
Your doctor will likely ask that you wear an eye patch for a little while after the surgery to let your eye recover and they will also probably prescribe anti-inflammatory antibiotics.
Expect to have follow-up appointments a few days, weeks and months after your surgery to ensure your recovery is going smoothly.
At the end of the day, cataract surgery is very common, safe and it will improve your eyesight. You might also find that lights are brighter, you can see more detail, and the world seems more beautiful!
To calm any nerves about the surgery, instead focus on the end results: clear vision and the ability to do your favorite activities (drive, read or sew) once more.
Have you experienced a recent cataract surgery? What other expectations should we add to our list? We’d like to hear your suggestions in the comments below.
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