The Power Of Vision

Sight is the leading factor in the vast majority of decisions made on any given day. Any changes to vision can dramatically affect the ability to function. Cataracts cause a breakdown in the layers of protein in the lens that the eye uses to focus light. Without the lens functioning properly, vision can become blurry, distorted, and dark.

Is surgery the only way?

As cataracts worsen, the lens opacifies, and vision becomes increasingly blurry. The human body can’t combat the condition, and there are currently no medications to revert the lens to normal. At this time, the only solution to treat the effects of cataracts is through surgery.

Say that five times fast

Phacoemulsification (also known as phaco) is the name for the procedure used to remove a cloudy cataractous lens. The surgery was first introduced by Dr. Charles Kelman in 1967, revolutionizing a once labor-intensive process. Phaco is performed in an outpatient setting in the sterile environment of a hospital or surgery center. On average, the procedure takes no longer than 10 or 20 minutes.

Under the knife

The eye is numbed before the surgery begins, and anesthesia may be administered through an IV to relax the body. The surgeon begins the procedure by making a small incision on the surface of the eye to access the lens. A piece of the bag that holds the lens in place is also removed to allow access. The ophthalmologist breaks the lens into pieces with the phacoemulsification machine and removes each piece with a tiny vacuum.

With the cloudy lens removed, the eye doctor places an artificial lens in the same location. This artificial lens is made specifically to match the focusing power the eye needs to see clearly after surgery. With the new lens firmly in place, the procedure comes to an end. Due to the lingering effects of anesthesia, patients are often asked to wait approximately 30 minutes after the procedure.

Light at the end of the tunnel

Thanks to the phacoemulsification procedure, recovery from cataract surgery is often a quick process. The incision made on the eye is so tiny that healing typically takes a few days and requires no sutures. Patients often report improvements in vision within 24 hours but can take a few months to fully adjust. Antibiotic and anti-inflammatory drops are usually prescribed to keep infection and swelling away.

There is typically minimal pain after cataract surgery, but the eye may feel itchy. The healthcare specialist may place restrictions on activities like driving or bending over for a short time after surgery. The physician may also advise wearing an eye patch while sleeping to avoid an accidental bump. Frequent visits in the days following the surgery will help the doctor ensure everything is healing normally.