Cataract Surgery

A cataract is when the clear natural lens of the eye becomes cloudy and results in blurred vision. The natural lens of the eye is responsible for focusing the light that enters the eye onto the retina. Cataracts are painless, typically develop slowly, and occur as a result of a build-up of protein in the lens. This build up prevents light from passing clearly through the lens, causing decreased vision. Cataracts are very common, and often develop as a result of aging. They can also, however, occur as a result of certain medical conditions and medications, as well as from exposure to toxic substances, radiation and ultraviolet light. In addition, cataracts can develop as a result of a traumatic injury, or be congenital and occur in infants and young children.

Because cataracts typically develop gradually, one may not initially be aware of any changes in vision. Once a cataract has developed to the point of becoming bothersome, symptoms can include:

  • Generalized clouding of vision, or vision that appears foggy or filmy, often affecting both distance and near tasks
  • Changes in prescription glasses, with a gradual progression towards near-sightedness
  • A dulling of color and contrasts
  • Complaints of excessive glare, especially at night

Cataracts are diagnosed through a dilated eye examination with an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Treatment of cataracts is the surgical removal of the cataract (the cloudy natural lens) and implantation of an artificial intraocular lens. The decision to proceed with cataract surgery is typically based on the severity of the cataract, and the amount of difficulty it is causing in performance of regular activities of daily living.

Cataracts are most commonly removed through the use of a process called phacoemulsification. Using a microscope, the surgeon will use a very small ultrasonic probe to dissolve the cataract into tiny fragments that can be suctioned out using the same probe. Once the cataract is removed, the thin capsular bag that the cataract occupied is polished, and an artificial intraocular lens is placed into thatsame bag. The surgery is performed entirely through one or two very small incisions, and typically does not require any sutures. The intraocular lens that is placed in the eyeperforms the same function as a natural lens, and focuses the light that is entering the eye.

Prior to surgery, you will receive your pre-operative instructions from your surgeon’s office, and these typically include not eating or drinking after midnight the night before your procedure. You will be asked to arrive at SAEC at a specified time, which will allow time for you to have your eye dilated for the procedure, and to meet the anaesthesiologistworking with your surgeon that day. Your surgeon, anaesthesiologist, and yourself will determine the type of sedation that is necessary; typically, most cataract surgery is done with very minimal sedation, and you will be awake for the procedure. Cataract surgery does not normally involve significant pain, and topical drops or gel are most commonly used to numb the eye. In the operating room, there will be two additional nurses there to assist you and your surgeon, and you can expect the surgical procedure to take approximately 10 to 20 minutes. After your procedure, a nurse will go through your postoperative instructions with you, and ensure that you have made arrangements to be transported home with your friend or family member.

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