Just Like A Camera

A camera uses a lens to focus incoming light before snapping a clear picture. The eye functions similarly, using an adjustable lens made of crystalline proteins to send clear images to the brain. Cataracts come along and disrupt the lens’s ability to bring clarity to objects.

Cats playing with the lens

Cataracts occur when the proteins comprising this natural lens break down. As this deterioration occurs, the proteins lose transparency and turn opaque. Light can no longer pass unimpeded through the eye, resulting in blurry or cloudy vision. Blurriness may first appear in one area of vision but will likely spread to other areas as time marches on. If left unchecked, the disease can consume all sight in the eye, leaving the eye blind.

Does this make me part robot?

At this time, surgery is the only way to treat cataracts. In most cases, even the worst cataracts can be removed and sight restored in the eye. With the eye’s natural lens compromised, the procedure involves the removal of the cataractous lens and replacement with another.

Lens replacement involves putting an artificial lens where the natural lens once was. These intraocular lenses (IOLs) are commonly made from either acrylic or silicone material. Both types of materials have been used for several years and are proven to be effective in restoring sight.

What happens when I’m under?

During the procedure, the surgeon makes a tiny incision on the surface of the eye. Through this incision, the ophthalmologist uses a small device to break up and remove the cataract. From the same opening, the doctor places a custom IOL matching the specific parameters of the patient’s eye. After surgery, the eye relies on this new lens to focus light and see clearly.

As safe as can be

No surgery is entirely risk-free, but cataract removal is one of the safest. The incision, averaging 2-3 millimeters in length, typically heals quickly and rarely requires sutures to close. Patients are given anesthesia to relax, either in eye drop form or through an IV. In either case, the body is not put completely to sleep, reducing the risk of an issue.

Surgeons almost always operate on one eye at a time, allowing ample time to recover. The entire procedure averages only 10 to 20 minutes to complete. Cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures in the world, with some 28 million performed each year.

Stay safe down the road

After cataract surgery, patients are usually given antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops to prevent infection and swelling. Individuals following the eye drop routine maximize the chances of a successful procedure. Other tips for a safe post-surgical experience include not rubbing the eye and keeping water away for a week.