Cataract Frequently Asked Questions

Where do cataracts originate?

Cataracts are a cloudiness that develops on the natural lens of the eye when we age, causing vision to become blurred. When cataracts progress to a certain point, traditional contacts and glasses can’t correct your vision and surgery is needed to replace your natural eye lens with a synthetic intraocular lens.

How fast do cataracts progress?

Most cataracts associated with aging progress slowly. Some patients do not notice the extent of the visual loss because of the slow onset. Other cataracts, especially in younger people and diabetic patients, progress rapidly over a few months. It is not possible to predict exactly how fast cataracts will progress in any given patient.

How is vision loss from cataracts evaluated?

A medical eye examination, including a check for glasses prescription (refraction), is necessary. In the early stages of cataract development, a change in glasses may be all that is required to improve vision. During the examination, your eye doctor will determine whether there are other causes of vision loss.

The usual test for visual acuity, the letter eye chart, may not reflect the true extent of your visual loss. Other tests that measure glare, sensitivity, night vision, color vision, and side or central vision may be useful. Some of these tests may help predict the degree of visual recovery that can be expected after cataract surgery.

If cataract surgery is deemed necessary after an evaluation at our clinic, we can then proceed to the next step. Contact Hoopes Vision to arrange your initial consultation.

Is loss of vision the only criterion for cataract removal?

There are two circumstances in which removal of a cataract by way of cataract surgery should be considered even though improvement in vision may not be expected. A cataract may be so advanced that diagnosis or treatment of other eye diseases cannot be performed properly. In this situation, it may be best to remove the cataract through surgery so that the interior of the eye can be examined. It is also possible for a cataract to become so advanced that the cataract itself causes other eye diseases, particularly inflammation or glaucoma. These rare situations are the only ones in which cataract removal may be considered an emergency necessity.

Are cataracts an inevitable part of aging?

Yes. As you age, the lens of your eye ages as well, growing thicker each year, eventually becoming cloudy and forming a cataract.

What symptoms are associated with cataracts?

Cataracts slowly develop with age and are painless. They, often go unnoticed until a doctor discovers them during an eye exam. Symptoms include blurry vision with colors that seem dim or faded with a yellow or brown tint, bright light sensitivity, halos that appear when looking at lights, heightened sensitivity to bright lights and glare, changes in vision that cannot be corrected by a change in eyeglass or contact lens prescription, and poor night vision.

How are cataracts removed?

Modern cataract surgery has been made possible by the operating microscope. This high-powered microscope allows the surgeon to see better as he removes the cataract during the surgery and implants the IOL into the eye. In addition to using the operating microscope, the modern cataract surgeon uses an extracapsular surgical technique. This means that the surgeon removes the lens contents but leaves the back portion of the natural lens capsule in place. Although this technique is much more difficult for many surgeons to perform, it provides the patient with many benefits.

The old cloudy lens can be removed using several different techniques. The technique chosen depends on the type of cataract and other factors about the patient. The whole lens can be removed (intracapsular technique), or the cloudy central portion alone can be removed (extracapsular technique). Another extracapsular technique is phacoemulsification, in which a tiny, ultrasonic vibrating needle is placed into the cataract to break it up into fragments that are liquefied and suctioned out through a small incision in the eye. Additionally, new lasers have been FDA market cleared to perform many of the initial steps of cataract surgery. These new lasers are capable of providing a level of precision and accuracy not possible with manual techniques. Hoopes Vision is the first vision correction facility in the world to offer multiple laser cataract platforms. During your examination, our surgeons will evaluate all options including custom laser cataract surgery and decide what technique or combination of techniques will provide the best results for each individual.

There is no single technique that is best for all eyes. In most cases, phacoemulsification cataract removal with intraocular lens implantation (which can be paired with the custom cataract laser platforms) gives the best visual result, but the ophthalmologist must weigh all factors before telling the patient which type of cataract surgery will be best. The preferred technique for cataract surgery at Hoopes Vision is phacoemulsification because it requires a smaller incision and no stitches.

 

What can I expect from cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery has a very high success rate. Useful vision is restored in over 90 percent of cases. However, it is important to understand that complications can occur; as with any surgery, a good result cannot be guaranteed. Nonetheless, those who undergo cataract surgery at our Sandy facility, which serves the greater Salt Lake City area, including Ogden and Provo, Utah, can feel secure in the knowledge that their surgeons are among the most experienced and skilled in the country.

There may be other reasons for vision loss besides cataracts, particularly problems involving the retina or optic nerve. If these problems are present, the patient’s restored vision after cataract removal may not be perfect. In fact, should these conditions be severe, removal of the cataract may not result in any visual improvement at all. An examination by an ophthalmologist can help predict whether such improvement is likely.

When should my cataract surgery be performed?

Many patients seeking refractive surgery do so because they have dry eyes and are unable to wear contact lenses anymore. It is important that your dry eyes be treated before you undergo LASIK. This process usually involves the use of tear supplements and punctal plugs (tiny silicone plugs placed in the tear drainage openings of your eyelids) that delay the drainage of your own tears so that your eyes will stay moist.

After the procedure, your operated eye may feel temporarily drier because the corneal nerves are severed during LASIK surgery, causing the eye to produce fewer tears. This condition is usually temporary and typically lasts three to six months. Dry eye symptoms can be particularly noticeable if you use the computer frequently, read for long periods of time, or drive extended distances. These types of activities exacerbate dry eyes because they cause you to stare and not blink as often. It is important to use ample lubrication, especially during the first few months after surgery.

How soon will I see well after cataract surgery?

Cataract surgery is the only effective way to remove a cataract. When cataracts cause enough loss of sight to interfere with your work or lifestyle, it is time to remove them. You and your eye doctor should decide together when cataract surgery is desirable.

Surgery is not necessary just because a cataract is present. Symptoms may be mild and well tolerated at first. On the other hand, there is seldom a need to delay surgery when vision loss from a cataract interferes with your daily activities. It is a misconception that cataracts need to be “ripe” before they are removed. Cataract surgery can be performed whenever visual needs require it. If you are having problems and wish to see better, then you can usually have the surgery. If you are not having problems, wait until you do. The ability to operate a motor vehicle safely is a consideration for some people.

How long until I am up and about?

With outpatient cataract surgery, it is possible to resume most normal activities by the day after surgery. Follow-up visits to the eye doctor over the subsequent six to eight weeks are extremely important. In many cases, vision can be restored to normal levels long before the end of that time, but the healing process, regardless of the technique, will take about four to six weeks. Observation and counseling of the patient during the postoperative visits are critical.

 

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