We hear about it all the time, whether we’re talking to the seniors in our lives or to our eye doctors who reiterate the importance of keeping our eyes healthy; cataracts are a natural side effect of growing older. Unfortunately, there is no known prevention tactic that we can use to stop them from forming, but we are lucky in that cataract surgery is a painless, quick procedure that can restore our vision.
If you are older than 50 and wondering about cataract surgery, here is everything you need to know about what it is, how it works, and what types are available.
What Is Cataract Surgery?
A cataract surgery is an outpatient procedure that is used to restore vision loss caused by cataracts. A cataract is a painless, cloudy area that forms on your eye’s natural lens, usually due to aging. The lens itself is enclosed in a lining called a lens capsule, so when cataract surgery is performed and the natural lens is removed, it is usually replaced with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens implant or IOL for short.
How Is Cataract Surgery Performed?
When you receive cataract surgery, the cloudy, natural lens of your eye will be removed and be replaced with an artificial lens (IOL). Your vision will be restored, and you will be cataract free. Here is generally how the surgery is performed.
- Your eye will be numbed with local anesthesia. You will remain awake during the procedure, but you won’t be able to see what the surgeon is doing. If you have anxiety, sedation can be requested.
- A small incision will be made along the side of your cornea. This can be done manually by hand or with a laser.
- The surgeon will use a high-frequency ultrasonic probe to break up the cloudy lens into smaller fragments. A laser can also be used to soften up the cataract.
- Suction will be used to gently remove the lens fragments.
- An artificial lens (intraocular lens) will be inserted into the eye, securely behind your pupil and iris. It will be placed into the same location as where your natural lens was.
- In most cases, no sutures are required and the wound will heal on its own.
- You will be given a protective shield to wear over the eye during the initial stages of your recovery.
It takes approximately 30-minutes for the procedure to be completed on average.
Types of Cataract Surgery
There are two main types of cataract surgeries; manual which is done by hand and laser-assisted. Both types involve replacing your eye’s natural lens with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL for short.
Manual – By Hand
- Phacoemulsification. With this cataract surgery, the surgeon creates a 2-3-millimeter long incision in the front of the eye. An ultrasonic probe is then used to break the cataract up using vibrations. The fragments of the cataract are then removed with a suction tool and a foldable lens is inserted into the eye through the incision. A small wound is left behind, but it does not require sutures.
- Manual Extracapsular Cataract Surgery (MECS). With this cataract surgery technique, a larger incision of approximately 9-13-millimeters long is made so that your natural lens can be removed. Once removed, the artificial intraocular lens replaces it. This technique is still widely used around the world because it comes with a cheaper cost, but it does leave a wound that requires sutures.
- Manual Small Incision Cataract Surgery (MSICS). This is a variation on the MECS technique, which uses a small v-shaped incision. This incision is made on the outside area of the eye and is wider on the inside, making a 6.5-7-millimeter outer incision and an ≤11-millimeter inner incision. This technique comes with comparable complications and outcomes to phacoemulsification.
- Femtosecond Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery (FLACS). Rather than making a manual incision in the eye, a surgeon may use a femtosecond laser to assist them. This laser will divide and soften up the cataract, allowing the surgeon to use less ultrasonic vibrations to break the cataract up. This means that less energy is used on the eye and therefore, the individual may have a more rapid recovery process. It may also be called Refractive Laser-Assisted Cataract Surgery or ReLACS for short.
Is Cataract Surgery Safe?
It is one of the safest surgical procedures available, with 95-98% of individuals undergoing the procedure with zero complications and an improvement in vision. The procedure itself is not painful, however, you may experience slight discomfort during the recovery period.
To learn more about how cataract surgery is performed and the types available to you, please contact us by filling out our contact form to get in touch.