Cataracts, which affect a person’s vision, are a clouding of the eye’s lens, and many of them are a consequence of aging. They can develop in one or both eyes, and by age 80, over half of the people in the United States have at least one cataract. If cataracts in both of the patient’s eyes require surgery, two procedures will be scheduled, usually a month or two apart.
When Surgery Is Needed
Cataracts are usually removed when the loss of vision interferes with the patient’s daily activities, including reading, driving, or watching television. Your physician can explain the risks and benefits of having the surgery, and help you determine when and if it should be done by testing your vision regularly. Note that cataract removal is also recommended for those who are being treated for other eye problems, such as diabetic retinopathy or age-related macular degeneration, even if they are not experiencing problems with their vision.
If you are a candidate, you will receive one of the following types of cataract surgery, and your eye specialist will explain which one will work best for you:
â— Phacoemulsification (phaco) – An incision will be made in the cornea, and a tiny probe will be inserted. This is a device that sends out ultrasound waves to prepare the lens, which will be removed by suction. Phaco, which is the most common type of cataract surgery, is also known as “small incision cataract surgery.”
â— Extracapsular surgery – With this procedure, the surgeon makes a longer incision in the cornea, the core of the lens is removed, and suction is used to remove the rest of the lens.
With either treatment, the natural lens is usually replaced by an artificial one, which is referred to as an Intraocular Lens. (IOL). It is made of clear plastic, becomes a permanent part of the patient’s eye, and cannot be felt or seen. The IOL focuses light on the retina, and the recipient’s vision is improved. For those who cannot have this procedure glasses, with high magnification or soft contact lenses may be recommended.